NORTH AUGUSTA -- Twelve years ago, as a newly elected city councilman, Lark Jones' first official act was to break ground for a new community center.
"It was built with the last of the federal revenue sharing funding, and it has developed into a tremendous asset for North Augusta," said Mr. Jones, who is now mayor. "The one negative is that we should have made it more multipurpose, but it has been a real success."
North Augusta Community Center, nevertheless, attracts a wide variety of uses, from banquets to weddings.
"We do a little bit of everything," said Nancy Payne, facility supervisor.
Mr. Jones noted that although the design for the center did not include facilities for dramatic production, it has been used for theatrical and musical productions. North Augusta's Cultural Arts group staged its first drama at the center this month with performances of A Tuna Christmas. "It was a new experience for me, working with theatrical people, and they seemed interested in wanting to do more," she said.
Along with the Riverview Activities Center, the community center occupies a central place in the city's effort to attract out-of-town groups through an agreement with the Augusta Metropolitan Convention and Visitors Bureau. Its location less than a mile from downtown Augusta makes it a quick drive from the heart of the metropolitan area.
The community center is set in a tree-sheltered section of Maude Edenfield Park, making it convenient for family reunions with a fully equipped playground and tennis courts, Mr. Payne said. Ten family reunions were among the 842 events held at the community center in 1997.
"We're convenient, accessible to restaurants and lodgings, and centrally located between Aiken and Augusta," Mrs. Payne said. "We're hands on, and we can make all meeting arrangements from catering to lodging."
Bob Brooks, director of North Augusta's Department of Leisure Services, said the center essentially pays for itself.
"Last year, paid events brought in $126,310," Mr. Brooks said. They included community meetings, private meetings, weddings, banquets, seminars by business and industry, and training sessions. Mrs. Payne and her staff can accommodate the needs of secret service agents accompanying cabinet members as well as the needs of members of a Buddhist wedding.
Mrs. Payne's staff of four is kept busy.
"Something is going on seven days a week. On Sunday, a local church congregation meets here, and so far, all but five Saturdays in 1998 are already booked," she said.