The idea for a recreation and community center had been floating around the Ukiah Valley for a number of years prior to 1996, but in that year a group of people with similar visions got together. They decided that the dreaming and talking needed to end. It was time to get to work constructing a much-needed facility dedicated to the community’s youth.
In 1997 The Ukiah Valley Cultural & Recreational Center (UVCRC) was established as a 501(C)(3) nonprofit organization and received a $25,000 youth services planning grant from the County of Mendocino. The vision was off and running.
A needs assessment of local youth-serving organizations was conducted in 1998, and found that many local public and private organizations supported the concept of the center and were willing to be part of the project. Twenty plus organizations had input on the facility.
In 2000, the City of Ukiah, the County of Mendocino and the Ukiah Unified School District formed the “South Ukiah School Partnership Project” focusing on the old Montgomery Wards site for a new elementary school. The school superintendent approached the UVCRC and asked if it was interested in sharing the site with the soon to be constructed Grace Hudson Elementary School. The UVCRC gladly accepted the School District’s offer. The Center suddenly had a home.
In 2001 implementation of a strategic fundraising plan started. The County of Mendocino awarded the UVCRC $1,000,000 over four years from its Tobacco Settlement Funds. In 2002 the City of Ukiah successfully sponsored a Community Development Block Grant on behalf of the UVCRC for $1,000,000. Mendocino County Public Health became involved in the project doing door-to-door surveys in the neighborhoods around the project site to develop an understanding of the nearby community’s needs and perceptions. Site preparation for construction of the Center and school was begun by Ukiah Unified School District.
In 2003 The California Endowment awarded the UVCRC $585,000. This award assured the center’s connection to the surrounding neighborhood residents. The School District and the UVCRC received an $800,000 grant from the state education department Joint Use Funds (AB1795). This grant was due to the nature of the private-public partnership of the District, the City and the County with the UVCRC.
Construction of the Center started in 2004. The first phase of construction was to build the shell of both the community center and the gymnasium. The second phase was to finish the community center side of the building, and the third phase was to finish the gymnasium. Fund raising continued.
In 2005 The S.H. Cowell Foundation made matching grants of $650,000 that required $400,000 in community matching funds. Spring of 2005 saw the completion of the building shells. The outside of both buildings were complete, aesthetically pleasing and most importantly watertight. The community had something to see and be inspired to help complete. Alex Rorabaugh, a local rancher and lumberman gave the center $550,000. This resulted in the name the Center has today, Alex Rorabaugh Recreation Center or ARRC.
The ARRC opened in 2007 with its first occupants being three classes of students from Grace Hudson Elementary School who were displaced from their classrooms due to burst pipes in the classroom ceilings. The 11,000 square foot community center is comprised of two public meeting rooms, a 1,350 square foot conference room, a commercial type kitchen, computer room, music room, arts and crafts room, indoor games area, a library, young children’s room, outdoor play area and offices for community-based organizations. Soon after opening, the Ukiah Boys & Girls Club started offering programs at the ARRC. FIRST 5 Mendocino is another major tenant, offering parenting classes and other support to families with children from birth to five years old through its Family Resource Center.
The 9,500 square foot multi-purpose gymnasium was completed and opened in 2012. The City of Ukiah now operates the gym and conference room rentals. The gym is now booked every day of the week with up to five different activities a day, ranging from school physical education classes, to Boys and Girls Club play time, to early morning pickleball and late night basketball. Thousands of children participate in youth basketball programs alone.
The ARRC has moved from the construction phase to the programming phase. With an Executive Director on site, the ARRC hosts several “Open ARRC” events each month, when the facility is open for free to the community to play basketball, indoor soccer, pool, ping pong, or use the meeting rooms for neighborhood or family meetings.
Thank you to all members of the Ukiah community who donated time, money, energy and resources to make the vision a reality. Thanks to all of you and your ongoing support, the ARRC will benefit the children and families of Mendocino County for generations to come.