As Presque Isle’s new community center gets ready to open this month, the longtime rec center and the home of much history is set to be demolished.
The new Sargent Family Community Center is hosting a grand opening Saturday, Oct. 29, and will be up and running with programs there as of Monday, Oct. 31, according to Presque Isle recreation and parks director Chris Beaulieu.
As the new, $7.5 million, 30,000-square-foot center is being welcomed in, Presque Isle also will say goodbye to the William V. Haskell Recreation Center, which has served thousands of residents for more than 70 years.
The last public vote was held at the Haskell Center on Sept. 29, and much of the building’s memorabilia have been moved, with some of the historic photos set to be on display at the new community center.
While there is excitement about the opening of the new community center, there also is some sadness at bidding farewell to the Haskell facility. The building has been a community recreation space since it opened as a United Service Organization club in the early 1940s, and it’s remembered for everything from dances and basketball games to being the site where kids got their polio vaccinations.
Continuing to operate or preserve the 7,200 square foot Haskell building would have required addressing a host of issues, including roofing, electrical systems, asbestos and mold.
Under a deal agreed to in 2014, Kirk Carroll, the owner of Carroll’s Auto Sales next door on Main Street, will buy the Haskell building site under one of two options he will select — for $145,000 if the city has the building demolished or for $40,000 without demolition.
Online, a Facebook group called “ Remembering the Presque Isle Rec” has formed to share stories and photos of the Haskell Center, and the group plans to hold an event commemorating the history of the building this month.
The Presque Isle city government purchased the USO club in 1946 and turned it into the Presque Isle Recreation Center, run by the first recreation director William Haskell, a former Army Air Corps officer who led the city’s rec programs until 1981. The rec center was named in honor of Haskell in 1987, a year after he died at the age of 73.
The Presque Isle Recreation Department started with the rec center as a multifunctional building and gym, plus a baseball field and outdoor pool. In his 35 years on the job, Haskell nurtured a wide variety of activities organized by the rec department and expanded the scope of community recreation, spearheading the creation of Mantle Lake Park, the former indoor pool and the forum, among other projects.