Danville has had an indoor recreation facility since the late 1800s when Thomas Beaver, the iron baron, built the Danville YMCA. At that time, it was a facility for young men and the primary activities were reading and games. In the early twentieth century, Abigail Geisinger’s generosity funded the indoor pool in the basement, the gym and the suspended walking track. For a century, this facility served the people – mostly children and teens – of the community quite well. The “Old Y,” as it is still called by many, has been the source of beloved memories for several generations of Danville residents.
Forty years ago, the “Old Y” was in need of major renovations and major repairs. The swimming pool, in particular, needed updating. Faced with trying to accommodate late 20th century activities in a facility designed for the previous century, a group of community-minded citizens began discussing the possibility of building a new indoor recreation facility.
Eight years of planning, designing and fundraising required thousands upon thousands of volunteer hours. During that time, MaryAnn Cera and Marty Walzer led the efforts of a small army of people who held Kite Festivals, art shows, Broadway reviews, and every kind of fundraiser imaginable. When it was clear that their efforts were gaining momentum, local and regional businesses and corporations joined the fundraising effort. It was the Danville Area School District, with a pledge of $250,000 to the campaign – in exchange for 20 years of daily pool time – that put the original fundraising goal of $1,000,000 “over the top.”
On December 14, 1986, the Danville Area Community Center was dedicated during a ceremony that was held in the building’s natatorium. The DACC, at that time, housed an indoor, six-lane, heated swimming pool; a full-sized gymnasium; a small weight room and locker rooms on the lower level. A large multi-purpose space and a small meeting room with kitchen facilities were located on the main level. The community center also had a $1,000,000 mortgage.
In 1987, two racquetball courts, a multi-use area outside the courts, and a multi-purpose room on the main level were added to the facility. As recently as 1991, the DACC did not house any fitness equipment – not even one treadmill! Fitness classes were very popular and free weights and a small universal were housed in the weight room on the lower level, but there was no strength or cardio equipment for people to use.
More than 3,500 people became members during the initial years of the community center’s existence. In a county of 18,000 people, this is a remarkable number of folks who were members. If that total had held through the years, the DACC would never have had a financial “woe.” Unfortunately, many of those people apparently purchased memberships to help establish a financial base and after two or three years, they dropped their memberships believing that they had provided their support. By 1991, membership had fallen below 2,000 and programs were struggling. Our community center was in trouble. Thankfully, a task force representing the business community, the school district, and the community-at-large took action.
During August 1991, Jean Knouse was hired as the fourth executive director of the DACC. In partnership with a committed board of directors and a hopeful, generous community, the DACC began to plan, reorganize and build for the future.
An important consideration through the years has been the center’s debt. Several fundraising campaigns have been required to pay off the center’s original mortgage. In July of our twentieth year, a wedding gift to Cindy and Marty Walzer from John and Mary West paid the balance due on the DACC’s mortgage – in full. We – members and staff – joyously celebrated with a parade to the bank to deliver the check!
The Danville Area Community Center celebrated its 20th Anniversary on December 14, 2006. At age twenty-five, the DACC looks very different than it did in its infancy. Fitness has become a major program component of the center and two senior programs, Silver Sneakers and Montour Fitness, are very well-attended. A fitness center with cardio and strength equipment is a very popular feature of the center, as is the fitness studio which houses typical aerobic classes and well-liked favorites such as yoga and Pilates. To address this growing interest by all age groups, the DACC has added additional circuit equipment that is designed for a smaller framed person. During the morning and afternoon hours, it will serve adults – especially seniors – and, in the late afternoon and evening, it will serve pre-teens and teens. The teen group will be supervised so they can be taught proper usage and the development of a proper personalized program.
Since the beginning of the “idea” of a community center was developed, those who led the way knew that provisions needed to be made for every age, every ability level and every income level. At the age of twenty, the DACC has provided for members of all ages, a wide variety of programs and services, and sponsored memberships for those who might otherwise be unable to afford to participate.
There is something for everyone at the DACC, a place “where everyone belongs.”