At the heart of the recreation side of the Perry Parks and Recreation Department stands the McCreary Community Building, which received a fresh wayfinding sign on Willis Avenue Wednesday.
Perry Public Works Assistant Director Josh Wuebker and staffer Mike Landals replaced the sun-faded sign with a new, blue marker directing residents and visitors the way to health and fitnesss — and fellowship — in Perry public sphere.
The McCreary Community Building opened in 1983 after prolonged uncertainties about its design, location and funding.
The impetus for the recreation center was a $650,000 bequest from the estate of Rex and Irma McCreary. Rex McCreary was a former president of the Perry State Bank, and he and his wife set up a series of trusts and foundations that together provided ongoing support for the city of Perry, the Dallas County Hospital, the United Methodist Church and numerous other organizations.
That the center was built at all is a testament to the vision and determination of Perry’s civic leaders of a generation ago, such as Perry Mayor George Soumas and local industrialist Lee Wiese.
The people of Perry also played a large part in building the McCreary Center, passing a $1.14 million construction bond issue in the summer of 1981, at a time when the U.S. was in the depths of the Reagan-era economic depression.
The rec center has operated at a loss since it opened. Its operating costs have consistently exceeded its revenues, but the value of the facility as a public asset—what is sometimes termed its social value—has made it well worth supporting over the past generation, according to Perry residents and many city officials.
Today politicians and voters alike commonly demand that all public enterprises — from schools to hospitals to parks — either turn a profit or be turned over to the private sector. This view now dominates budget discussions and policy decisions at all levels, from city governments to the U.S. Congress, and the McCreary Community Building has not escaped this demand for self-sufficiency.
Profitability apart, the McCreary Community Building still provides its core programs and services, such as the Congregate Meals, a wide variety of aquatics and athletics activities and health and wellness classes for senior citizens, under the competent leadership of Director John Anderson, Assistant Director Becky Towers and Aquatics Coordinator Jimmy Kezar.
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