A “Welcome Back Rubonia” sign hung from the fence outside the Rubonia Community Center to celebrate the center’s reopening Monday. “Welcome back” ballons were placed on both sides of the center’s doors.
About 100 people from both the Rubonia community and Manatee County gathered at the center, which had been closed since 2013, to celebrate the reopening of what residents call the community’s core.
“I’m just happy,” Mary Brown, Rubonia Community Association chairwoman, said as she stood inside the center, 1309 72nd St. E., Rubonia, looking at all the people gathered there. “I am elated that all these people turned out. Right now, I am just numb. It is beautiful and the kids are ready to go.”
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Children lined up outside the center around 8:15 a.m. Monday ready for the start of the Rubonia Community Association’s Summer Youth Program, which began Monday and runs until July 29. As of now, the center will cease operation at the conclusion of the summer program, but the Rubonia Community Association hopes to operate the center past the summer.
“It is just a beautiful thing to see everyone here together,” said Derrick Randall, who runs the D.L. Randall Foundation. “When you bring the core back, everyone draws to the core and this is what you get. This is what you get when everybody works together.”
For 12-year-old Jordan Goff, the center is “a whole lot different” since the last time she was there.
“It feels good to be back in here,” she said. “I want to stay here.”
The closed community center, as well as poor drainage and lack of sidewalks, have been among concerns of residents living in Rubonia, which is located off U.S. 41 between Palmetto and Interstate 275. The county invested $75,000 for the first phase of needed renovations at the center, in addition to providing $22,304 for the summer program.
“It has been a long, long road that we’ve been on, winding and sometimes ups and downs and sometimes potholes, but the potholes have been filled and the roads have been straightened out and it looks like the road is ready for us to travel now,” said Commissioner Larry Bustle, who represents Rubonia. “I am very happy for the community that we’ve got this place opened up and Lord willing it will stay open.”
When lifelong Rubonia resident Linda Mack, 63, walked through the center’s doors Monday, she said she got chills.
“The kids are so happy,” she said. “They have smiles for the kids. They have something to do. It all paid off. It was all worth the wait.”
The reopened community center is a “blessing” for 84-year-old Rubonia reisdent Agnes Brooks.
“This is a miracle,” she said. “It is a miracle. It looks like a new place.”