Columbus is home to some long-serving parks department facilities: Hamilton Community Center and Ice Arena, and Donner Center, the latter home to the Columbus Parks and Recreation Department.

One has an indoor skating rink, the other an outdoor swimming pool – both of which are utilized by many local residents. Also, both are used to host events.

Hamilton Center, built in 1958, underwent a major renovation completed in 2014 to refurbish the main ice rink, restrooms and locker rooms, and transform the lobby into a new community room. That was possible because of a $2 million investment by the city and a private $1.4 million fund drive led by retired Cummins executive Jim Henderson.

Now it appears to be Donner Center’s turn.

The city knows that the building that opened in 1947 has physical shortcomings:

  • Water leaking from ceiling tiles
  • Compliance problems with the Americans with Disabilities Act
  • Much of the original kitchen equipment doesn’t work
  • Storage space is inadequate
  • Recurring paint peeling in the men’s and women’s locker rooms
  • Outdoor bleachers by the swimming pool located on top of the roof of the multi-purpose room have weakened the joints and caused visible wear inside the room
  • Some bricks on the outside of Donner Center are starting to crumble
  • The multi-purpose room’s configuration presents challenges for groups holding events

The cost of making needed improvements will be determined by an outside consultant.

While it is too soon to predict exactly what must be done, or when, and how much it will cost, either investing in a renovation or razing Donner Center and starting fresh with a new facility are the only viable options. A do-nothing approach is not an option.

While Donner was not designed by a world-class architect, as Hamilton Center was, it’s likely that this project will take another public-private partnership effort, as Columbus has been known to do so many times.

It’s not too soon to be thinking how a private fund drive might complement taxpayers’ investment to either save or replace Donner Center.