History of the Harleysville Community Center
Today, the Harleysville Community Center serves as the host for a wide variety of activities including swimming, baseball, soccer, summer camps of baseball, field hockey, lacrosse, a YMCA day camp, the Harleysville Jaycees Country Fair Days and the annual Chicken BBQ.
The Harleysville Community Center has expanded dramatically over its 50+ year existence. What began as a 14 acre plot holding a single baseball field and a Scout Cabin (the original part a converted chicken house), now covers over 31 acres and includes six little league baseball fields, two full size baseball fields, numerous soccer and field hockey/lacrosse fields, several pavilions, two pools and a Scouting Center.
The game of baseball played a major part in the origins of the Harleysville Community Center. During the early 1900s, Harleysville was part of a baseball league that played its home games on a diamond next to the Lower Salford Elementary School. In the 1940s, a more competitive league, the East Penn League, was formed and Harleysville became a part of this league. The Harleysville Athletic Association bought a parcel of land to build a baseball diamond with a grandstand/stadium. The baseball field, now named the Vic Alderfer Memorial Ball Park, is still in use today.
In the early 1950s with Harleysville no longer fielding a team in the East Penn League, the Harleysville Athletic Association dissolved, resulting in the birth of the Harleysville Community Center. Following a tragic drowning in a local creek, the interest of having a public swimming pool in Harleysville gathered momentum. A group of interested citizens traveled to see other community pools first hand. In 1955, the Harleysville Lions Club voted to support the project and made a contribution toward the construction of a swimming pool. In addition to donations, the Community Center sold non-interest bearing bonds in the community to finance the project; many of the bonds were then forfeited by civic minded community members. With volunteer workers helping to keep the costs down, including hand-digging, the original pool complex was built for $45,000. The Harleysville Community Center proudly opened its pool in 1957. Video clips documenting the pool’s opening day are linked here….
This first clip shows the opening day ceremonies…the laying of the 1957 cornerstone; the Lower Salford Elementary Band; Wilmer Wambold, HCC’s first president and Norman Bergey, the Center’s second president were two of the speakers during the opening ceremonies; a large crowd of community members; the ceremonial first “swim”… actually, it is Wambold being ceremonially thrown into the pool.
The second clip shows the first day of swimming in 1957…a few diving board antics; little ones in the wading pool; quite a crowd…looks like it was fun for all!
*Thanks to Eric Moyer for supplying the wonderful video clips he put together from 8mm movies filmed by his grandfather, Wesley Moyer.
This picture, most likely taken during the early to mid-1960s, shows the original pool with both one and three meter diving boards. The three meter board was removed due to safety concerns. The original baseball grandstand, built in the 1940s can be seen behind the bathhouse.
A free standing refreshment stand was added along with a covered patio during the late 1960s. The Harleysville Community Center added its second pool in the early 1970s. The eight lane, 25 meter pool has served the Harleysville Swim Team quite well over the years. The additional pool also provided much needed free swimming space as the original pool had become very crowded as the pool’s membership continued to grow rapidly.
During the 1980s/90s, along with the normal maintenance, major projects included the replacing of filters, piping, sections of decking and the building of a separate ticket booth/main entrance.
In 1992, a violent storm tore the roof off the massive wooden grandstand that had hosted baseball fans since the 1940s. The Community Center rebuilt a modified grandstand/storage center in 1993.
The Harleysville Baseball Association continues to make improvements to the baseball complex located on the upper portion of the property.
During the spring of 2011, HCC embarked on a multi-phased/multi-year renovation project to update the swimming pool complex. The following improvements were completed over a three-year time period:
- New peninsula with a 12-foot wide shark umbrella to provide in-pool shade;
- Water jets and a “Baby Dome” which provides an endless shower of water on children in the wading pool;
- Zero entry ramp, in-water steps (both to the upper pool) and an automated lift (lower pool) allow for unassisted swimmer access in and out of the water; these improvements made HCC compliant with the Federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA);
- Resurfacing of the wading pool and replacement of the concrete patio area between the pavilion and the snack stand;
- Total replacement of the lower pool filtration system;
- A double, multi-colored flume slide, added to the deep water of the upper pool, will give our members, both young and old alike, years of fun.
A Tribute to the original HCC Board of Directors:
Many, many thanks to the original HCC Board members who had the courage and the foresight to take on such a huge undertaking…and…the courage and the foresight to keep an eye toward the future as they expanded the Community Center’s acreage to what it is today. Nestled in the heart of our community, the Community Center has and continues to play an integral part in bringing together people of all ages; but most importantly, the Community Center continues to provide a safe place for our community’s youth to have fun while developing into productive citizens.
Is the Harleysville Community Center a private or public entity?
The Harleysville Community Center was officially incorporated in 1956 . The non-profit organization is governed by a Board of Directors consisting of a President, Vice President, Treasurer, Secretary and nine Board Members, all of whom are volunteers. Throughout the years, there has been much confusion as to the status of the Community Center…is it a public or a private entity? Since it receives no tax dollars and is not a part of the Lower Salford Parks/Recreation System, it is a private entity; it is not, however, “owned” by the Board of Directors…rather, the Board is charged with the task of overseeing all happenings of the Center. Being that the Center/the pool complex is open to the public…one could say it certainly has a public component. It is interesting to note that most pool complexes in the surrounding communities are tied directly to a Borough or Township.
Over the years the Harleysville Community Center and Lower Salford Township have formed a wonderful working relationship. As stated above, the Center receives no tax dollars from Lower Salford Township. A number of years back, an agreement between the two entities ensured that should the time come when the Community Center was no longer able to function in its present arrangement, the Township would take over the complete operation of the Harleysville Community Center. Within the arrangement, the Township pledged to assist the Community Center by providing help from the Township’s road and park crews. It is the goal of both entities to maintain the current governing arrangement for many years to come.
From its inception, the Harleysville Community Center has relied on community donations, pool memberships and facility use fees. As mentioned earlier, the Harleysville Lions Club has been a financial supporter of the Community Center since the beginning. The Club held its first Chicken BBQ in 1955; the BBQ, still being run by the Lions is held the first Saturday of June. The Harleysville Jaycees have hosted the “Country Fair Days” at the Community Center for 40+ years. The Jaycees, through the fair, have been the Community Center’s major contributor. The annual “Country Fair Days”, a four-day event, begins the Wednesday before Memorial Day.