Huntington Beach says goodbye to Rodgers Seniors’ Center

City of Huntington Beach leaders, staff and residents gathered Friday morning to say goodbye to the Michael E. Rodgers Seniors’ Center.

The center, located for decades on Orange Avenue, is being demolished. A new 2.01 acre park will be built in its place.

“The community recognized that it was time to evolve this space,” said Huntington Beach Mayor Barbara Delgleize. “I’ve always been a huge supporter of our wonderful network of parks, and love that we’re a community that knows the importance of continuing to improve our existing 78 parks, and even one more open space.”

The Rodgers Seniors’ Center became expendable when the city opened the Senior Center at Central Park in 2016. Randy Pesqueira, the director of the Senior Center at Central Park, began working at the Rodgers site in 1999.

He said the aging baby boomer generation has created the need for more space.

“I started here in my 40s and now I’m in my 60s, so I’ve been a senior all the way,” Pesqueira said at Friday’s ceremony. “What we’ve learned working here is the respect we should give to our elders. Seniors don’t like change, but seniors are also very flexible. They taught us to live and grow old. You don’t get lessons on aging…but that’s where those lessons are taught.

Local dignitaries including U.S. Representative Michelle Steel, Mayor Barbara Delgleize, Councilwoman Natalie Moser and others throw a shovel of dirt at the groundbreaking for a new park at the location of Rodgers Seniors’ on Friday. Center.

(Scott Smeltzer / staff photographer)

In July 2020, the Huntington Beach City Council approved a site redevelopment plan for the Rodgers Seniors’ Center. A contract worth nearly $2.4 million was awarded last December to Legion Contractors Inc.

The existing outreach building on the property will remain in use by the American Legion Huntington Beach Post 133.

The Rodgers Seniors’ Center was originally a Santa Ana Army Air Force Base building, Building T-1099. The city allowed Tom Talbert to purchase it for $4,117 in 1949, and it was moved to its current location.

“It was an interesting time, as our municipal leaders and community members were very concerned about the effects of World War II on our youth and high school students,” said Kathie Schey, chair of the Historic Resources Board. of Huntington Beach and city archivist. “[They wanted] young people to have a place to gather and develop skills. Under the watchful eye of responsible adults, it would be truly meaningful and transformative in our city. »

Although it might be hard to believe now, Schey said at the time that the area had no residential properties, just oil wells and other drilling rigs.

“That made it an asset,” she said. “That meant they could have the teenagers here, close enough that they could access them, but far enough from any residents that they were a nuisance and caused a lot of noise.”

Randy Pesqueira, the director of the Senior Center in Central Park, speaks during Friday's ceremony.

Randy Pesqueira, the director of the Senior Center in Central Park, speaks during Friday’s ceremony.

(Scott Smeltzer / staff photographer)

Over time, the use of the building was expanded to include more groups. It was renovated and dedicated as a Senior Center in 1975. Another renovation took place in 1983, along with a name change to honor Michael E. Rodgers, a senior attorney and founding member of the Huntington Beach Council on Aging.

“The Council on Aging has created programming, including a famous New Year’s Eve dance,” Pesqueira said. “People got their furs out for this dance, okay? They took out their beautiful coats, their dresses with bracelets, and they danced until midnight.

The mood for Friday’s ceremony was also celebratory, as local leaders grabbed shovels for a groundbreaking ceremony for the new park. They also placed flowers on the side of the Rodgers Seniors’ Center sign, which Schey said would be placed inside until demolition as a final tribute.

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