Bennington Community Center – Rec. Center

The Bennington Recreation Center Then… And The Bennington Community Center Now!

The Bennington Recreation Center was built in 1973 and has been an important part of our community ever since. Over the past 10 years the “Rec Center” has undergone a major transformation, including a name change to become the Bennington Community Center; a name which better reflects the expansion in programming and its increasing role in the community as a whole.
One major change between then and now is the increase in programming. Through its partnership with the Berkshire Family YMCA (BFYMCA), this past summer saw a dramatic increase in the summer camps programs with 100+ children per week served on average. There has also been a significant increase in the number of adult programs. The current calendar has 10 programs offered and is continuing to grow. In 2011 there were no after school programs. Today there is an after-school program in place for SVSU schools, the Village School of North Bennington, and a new teen program that is in development now.
A particular focus of the revamped Community Center has been providing a pathway for developing leadership skills in our youth. Kids participating in camps can become Leaders in Training as they get older where they assist camp staff and ultimately can become Teen leaders themselves… with training in First Aid, CPR, Lifeguard Training, Babysitting skills, and mentoring, and ultimately a pathway for employment in future camps. Taylor McGuire, Assistant Branch Manager notes “kids love working with the older youths in the program. It’s great for them to see their peers in a leadership role and encourages them to follow in their footsteps.” In 2020, the leadership program provided an unexpected benefit as the first year of the Covid pandemic raged: teens found a safe place at the Center in the voids left by school closings and related losses of traditional activities. “It was inspiring to see teens really take ownership and demonstrate leadership in helping craft how their experience at the Center would unfold” says Branch Director Kayla Becker.
Over the past year the Bennington Community Center was successful in in getting over $100,000 in grant funds to assist with the development and creation of programming. “The grant funds are key for helping us launch new programs, but it’s up to us to refine and improve those programs so that they ultimately become self supporting… and can even help subsidize future programming development” says Becker. “you can’t increase prices unless you are increasing the value of what you are offering.”
And prices have increased. For the first time in 10 years, a price increase was announced this past August 1 by the Bennington Select Board. Rates for Bennington residents are subsidized by the town through tax dollars. For example, the subsidized cost of a Bennington resident for a one month Senior membership is now $6.66 per month, or $79.92 per year. That represents a $1.49 increase per month over the cost in 2011. Adult memberships for Bennington residents are now $7.40 per month. Bennington Teens are $24 per year, and Bennington children are $12 per year. Resident family memberships are also available for various types of households and a full rate schedule and rates for non-Bennington residents are available at https://benningtonvt.org/departments/parks-recreation/ Per day rates are available as well.
One increasing membership category is striking. Becker notes that “today, we have over 150 families which is a significant increase from when I first started. That is directly the result of our increase in programs for all ages, making family memberships much more attractive.” New programs continue to be innovative as well. “We are adding a ‘Child-watch’ component to a number of our adult offerings… so parents can participate with the peace of mind of having child care on site. This has been especially popular with grandparents who are often assuming the role of child care for parents and could not participate otherwise!”
The physical change in the space has also been significant, both inside and outside. The major expansion added new educational spaces, kitchen services, and many other features ​as well as a new home for the UCS Early Childhood Center. Outside, a new fence has been erected to make the fields safe for children’s use. Work on that new fence is not done… as part of a citizen led discussion, a grant has been secured to add art, landscaping, and other improvements to “soften” the impact of the fence while retaining is functional use of keeping kids safe. With the new fencing, things like children’s soccer has been able to return which was not possible without it. Another future addition will be a neighborhood history walk, along the lines of the “Across the Street” signage downtown, to share and celebrate the history of the neighborhood.
The Bennington Community Center is located at 655 Gage Street and is open Monday, Wednesday, and Friday from 6:00 am to 8:00 pm, Tuesday and Thursday from 8:00 am to 8:00 pm, Saturday from 8:00 am to 4:00 pm, and Sunday 8:00 am to 12:00 pm.