Lexington eyes plan for $10 million senior, therapeutic recreation center

LEXINGTON, Ky. (WTVQ) – Lexington Mayor Linda Gorton is working to build a Center for Senior and Therapeutic Recreation in Shillito Park.

The new center would provide new, accessible space for therapeutic programming, and supplement some of the services now offered at the Senior Center on Life Lane.

“These programs are a good fit. The interest areas align easily. Shared use increases utilization and reduces costs,” Gorton said.

Gorton presented plans Tuesday evening for a Center for Senior and Therapeutic Recreation to the Urban County Council.

She plans to build on property the City already owns in Shillito Park, near Shillito Pool. Shillito Park has 52 acres and is located at 300 West Reynolds Road.

The new center will provide equipment and space for Lexington’s Therapeutic Recreation program. Therapeutic Recreation now operates in several older buildings that offer challenges to the program.

“Recreation Therapy is an integral component of the health, wellness, recovery and quality of life for Lexington residents,” Gorton said. “Therapeutic Recreation programs involve a variety of techniques, including recreation and leisure activities, arts, crafts, sports, games, and more.”

Lexington Parks and Recreation is one of three recreation programs in the state that offers a Therapeutic Recreation program.

Since 1955 it has provided opportunities for individuals with disabilities to enjoy activities through recreation, leisure and play.

Therapeutic Recreation offers a wide variety of programs all over town, and that will continue with the new facility. The program serves people who have intellectual and developmental disabilities, acute or chronic illnesses, or impairments caused by aging or accident, among others.

There is also growing demand for senior services, Gorton said.

“When the Senior Services Commission and I got the ball rolling on the Senior Center we opened in 2016, we knew there was a lot of demand for a new facility,” Gorton said.

Currently an average of 368 seniors use the Senior Center off Richmond Road each day.

“Our senior population is continuing to grow, and we know there is pent-up demand for more services,” Gorton said.

“The Senior Center has taught us a lot of lessons about what seniors want and need,” Gorton said. “Number one on the list is exercise opportunities.” Exercise, art, music and performance classes are at capacity at the Richmond Road facility.

The City also learned lessons about the importance of services for seniors during the pandemic.

“Seniors enjoy meeting friends for a class or a meal,” Gorton said. “The on-line classes that we offered during the pandemic have been great, but seniors like opportunities to get together and enjoy one another. The new facility will offer new opportunities for gathering together.”

Cost to build the new center, encompassing approximately 21,500 square feet, is estimated at $10 million. Gorton did not ask Council to approve or fund the concept.

“This was an informational presentation,” she said. “There are several options to consider for Council to consider for funding.”

The primary option is some of the $122 million in federal funds the county expects to receive during the next two years. The funding must be committed by December 2024 and spent by the end of 2026.

The major questions raised by council members were the annual operational expenses and how those would be paid and the impact on the city’s general fund.

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