HANFORD — During most of this summer's unbearable heat, one name has kept popping up as a place for the community to cool down: the Longfield Center. But what exactly is the Longfield Center, and what does it mean to the residents of Hanford?
“It’s been a part of the community for as long as I can remember,” Lou Martinez said. “It’s cherished here in the area and means a lot to us in the neighborhood.”
Built in 1977, the Longfield Center has provided the residents of Hanford with free recreational activities for 40 years. While it's usually been the cooling center for the city, it is currently closed so upgrades - including new swamp coolers - can be installed. It is expected to reopen Sept. 15.
The center, located at 560 S. Douty St., has an indoor basketball court, computer room, weight room, pool table, ping pong tables, outdoor handball courts, a small outside theater and television set up with a Nintendo Wii.
Armando Da Silva, a recreation supervisor for the City of Hanford, is in charge of the Longfield Center. He said anyone can go to the center and everything at the center is free to use.
The Longfield Center is such a well-known institution in south Hanford, it even has what is called the “Longfield Hall of Fame.”
Da Silva said the Hall of Fame ceremony takes place every other year to honor Hanford residents who have made a difference in the community.
Two people receive the Hall of Fame awards and one person receives a Mentor award, which is given to someone who has made a difference in another person’s life.
Martinez was the 2014 recipient of the Mentor award, and he’s definitely no stranger to the kids who regularly visit the center.
Martinez takes pastries to the kids at the center at least three times a week, all donated by Panera Bread, he said.
Martinez would visit what he calls the “original Longfield Center” when he and his brothers were growing up in the 1950s. He said there used to be a little church that was converted into a hall on the corner of 3rd and Douty Streets that used to be the Longfield Center before it was built at its current location.
His boys all went to the center and Martinez said he’s glad the city has provided a place where the kids of Hanford can grow up. He said the center is a great place for kids to go to get out of the heat or cold, and hangout in a place that is supervised.
He said he has never seen any problems arise or issues happen at the center because it is a place where all kids from different parts of town play together and get along.
Martinez said it is very humbling to be in the Hall of Fame at the center, and said it’s great to see the community come together and give their time to the next generation.
Martinez said he’s glad the center is getting the updates it needs so that it can remain a healthy environment for the kids, and gives kudos to the staff at the center for providing a safe place for them.
“I hope the city continues to work on maintaining it,” Martinez said.
“It’s not so much the building, but the people that work there,” Damian Douglas, a 2016 Longfield Hall of Fame recipient, said. He said the Longfield Center staff treat every kid like they’re important and don’t judge them.
Douglas said the Longfield Center is a place where people can be themselves, have fun, smile and know they are safe. He said parents don’t have to worry about their kids when they are at the center.
Douglas said he is grateful and fortunate enough to have his name next to the other recipients on the wall at the center because they have been successful and able to make a difference in others’ lives; especially for the young kids who live in south Hanford.
Working with Assemblyman Rudy Salas, Douglas has been able to hold backpack giveaways and coat giveaways to the kids who go to the center. Personally, he has taken students on college trips to show them that if they make good choices in life, they can go far.
The Longfield Center became a cooling center for the city because it is a big space that was already a community center and doesn’t cost the city any more than what it already costs to operate, Da Silva said.
The center is currently closed while going through some renovations and will soon have a new roof and new swamp coolers, among other upgrades.
Da Silva said the new swamp coolers will be bigger, better and provide cooler air than the coolers that were previously there.
The Longfield Recreation Center project started on Aug. 14 and Da Silva said the city is hoping to have all the work done by Sept. 15.
Next month, Da Silva said there will be a Friday Fun Night on Oct. 27 with a Halloween theme, where different activities will be set up for kids and free pizza and drinks will be served.
Da Silva encourages the community to visit the Longfield Center and enjoy all the free activities the center has.