donner center future
Mark Jones, director of the Columbus Parks and Recreation Department, looks inside the janitor's closet that has been turned into an office at the Donner Center in Columbus, Ind., Wednesday, March 7, 2018. Recently, the Columbus Parks Board released a plan to invest $82 million in land and facilities over the next five years. Recommendations for Donner Center were not in the 250-page plan. The 70-year-old facility has struggled with maintenance issues that have limited it's viability as a community and fitness center. Mike Wolanin | The Republic

Water is leaking from the ceiling. Bricks on the exterior are crumbling. Entrance doors and restrooms are not handicap-accessible.

Donner Center, a city facility that opened 71 years ago at 739 22nd St., may be near the end of its useful life.

It has been used to host for youth and adult programs in Columbus. Clubs and organizations hold meetings and special events there. And Donner Center is home to the Columbus Parks and Recreation Department.

But condition of the 23,000-square-foot building is so bad that Mayor Jim Lienhoop a year ago chose to hold his second State of the City address there to let residents see that for themselves.

The Columbus Park Board, the policy-making authority for the city parks department, agreed in December to invest an estimated $82 million in land and facilities during the next five years. But the new five-year park master plan does not give a specific recommendation about Donner Center, other than pointing out significant maintenance issues that are hampering its use, and concluding that it does not currently meet the community’s need for a fitness or community center.

Based on surveys and community input sessions, consultant Browning Day Mullins Dierdorf recommended that the city develop an indoor recreation and community center. However, the Indianapolis design firm said that if Donner Park were selected as the location for such a facility, it would need significant renovation.

Important decisions such as whether to renovate or raze Donner Center are yet to be made.

“We’re still in the gathering stages of what we need, what we want,” said Mark Jones, the city’s director of parks and recreation.

For more on this story, see Thursday’s Republic.

Author photo
Matt Kent is a reporter for The Republic. He can be reached at 812-379-5712 or