Officials: Despite fight, boxing gym move is for greater good

YONG KIM / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Dianna Cute warms up at the downstairs boxing gym in Kendrick Recreation Center.
YONG KIM / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Dianna Cute warms up at the downstairs boxing gym in Kendrick Recreation Center.
Posted: July 29, 2013

DURING LAST week's heat wave, the compact boxing gym in Roxborough's Kendrick Recreation Center was sweltering.

Despite the heat, Aaron Traister, 35, Dianna Cute, 33, and a handful of other boxing devotees were still there shadowboxing and sparring.

"There's no fresh air when people are working out. It disappears quickly," said Traister, a seven-year Roxborough resident who joined the boxing program at Kendrick, on Ridge Avenue near Rector Street, a few months ago.

The issue, Traister and Cute said, is that the city promised the boxers that the gym would be in good condition by the time the summer heat hit. The gym had to be moved downstairs from a spacious auditorium upstairs in the rec center, city officials said, to utilize the space better.

"This was supposed to be livable conditions," Traister said in the gym last week while two boys practiced in the ring. "Out of all the windows, there's one fan."

Officials with city Parks and Recreation said their goal in moving the program, which they said has about 20 participants, was to serve the highest number of people and programs.

"The boxing ring was upstairs in a beautiful auditorium that hindered us from using it for every other program," Parks and Rec Commissioner Susan Slawson said. "By freeing up extra room upstairs, the community can also use that space."

Slawson and Leo Dignam, the deputy commissioner of Parks and Rec's programs division, said that the department spent $3,500 on a new ring for the new gym and made some renovations, but that other updates - including wall mirrors and punching bags in adjacent rooms - are still in the works.

"We went above and beyond to make it safe for them, and we do have ventilation in there," Dignam said of the new gym.

Cute, who's been involved with the boxing program since April 2012, said some participants have stopped coming because of the current state of the gym. She said her and other participants' attempts to contact officials for a clearer sense of plans for the gym have been futile.

"There's no ETA, no accountability and no sense that anyone has any real oversight of what's going on," Traister said.

Councilman Curtis Jones, whose district includes Kendrick Rec, committed a $40,000 for capital improvements to the boxing program's facilities, said his spokeswoman Ajeenah Amir. That money is still going through the allocation process, she added.

"[The boxing program] did a lot of great things for boxers and aspiring boxers in that neighborhood, and that's why we've put our support behind it," Amir said. "We want to make sure its rollout is timely and that the work is done up to the standards that everyone wants."


On Twitter: @morganzalot

Blog: PhillyConfidential.com

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