Community Center to Open in Hazleton

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HAZLETON -- Inside what was once the Most Precious Blood School in Hazleton, officials made the big announcement Friday afternoon.

The old school will be the city's new community center called Hazleton One Community Center.

Joe Maddon, manager of the Tampa Bay Rays and Hazleton native is credited with making the community center a reality.

"I envision the athletic programs, I envision good academic programs, I said culinary for men and women, I love to cook myself, drama classes up here," said Maddon.

Maddon and other community members thought up the plan for a community center years ago and through an organization Maddon helped start called the Hazleton Integration Project, or HIP, they made it happen.

The organization raised hundreds of thousands of dollars and managed to buy the school building, which will be renovated.

The community center will offer no-cost or low-cost activities to kids from throughout the city. It is an effort to keep them safe, occupied and off the streets.

"That's a way of combating what's going on with our crime rate in the city. Kids don't have nothing to do. A community center is going to provide them a home where they can visit, a home where they're going to learn an home that they can practice different kinds of sports instead of wandering the streets," said Jose Rodriguez, a Hazleton parent.

The plan is to have the community center open in May.

"I think that one of the most fulfilling things I'll ever do in my life is the day that we are able to turn that key, turn around and watch those kids run in because it's a legacy kind of thing, it's something you can be proud of that you've played a part of making that happen," said HIP President Bob Curry.

"The dream is pretty much everything, whatever is necessary to raise the skill levels of all the kids in the community, the sky is the limit, really," said Maddon.