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Newly renovated rec center with emphasis on tech training opens in the Hill District

City leaders cut the ribbon at a newly renovated Ammons Rec Center in the Hill District.
Ariel Worthy
90.5 WESA
City leaders cut the ribbon at a newly renovated Ammons Rec Center in the Hill District.

Pittsburgh leaders opened a new and improved community recreation center in the city's Hill District Monday, part of a "rec-to-tech" program in which the centers offer students access to Wi-Fi and other technology.

The newly renovated Ammon Rec Center reopened at a ribbon cutting that marked the building's first upgrade in decades, according to Pittsburgh City Councilor Daniel Lavelle, who represents the neighborhood.

"It really hadn't been updated for a very, very long time, saying it nicely," he said. "And the reality was it probably wasn't going to be updated for a very long time if it wasn't for partnerships."

Dan Gilman, Mayor Bill Peduto's chief of staff, said the city has not invested in its rec centers in decades. But COVID aid funding from the American Rescue Plan will enable the city to upgrade rec centers and offer new training opportunities as well.

"Kids in our city are no longer going to be given a basketball and a cup of juice and told that they can hang out and be safe, which is important," Gilman said. "They can have those opportunities plus career skills, plus life skills, plus workforce development."

The Ammon Center renovations included updated walls, carpeting and windows. Once a drafty, open space, the center now has classrooms, wireless technology and a tech learning lab where students can learn coding, artificial intelligence and computer science.

Sean Gibson is executive director of the Josh Gibson Foundation, which often uses the space for a tutoring program for elementary and middle school students.

"We've been trying to get this space done for two years," Gibson said. "The kids seem excited to come in and learn in a fresh new space."

Renovations for the space cost $120,000, and the project received assistance from the Pittsburgh Penguins and First National Bank, which are developing a portion of the Lower Hill.

Gilman said the city will look at renovating rec centers in Troy Hill and the North Side.