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Sun Times Feature Story

It's Truly A Hallandale Beach Showcase

New O.B. Johnson Park / Hepburn Center puts a positive spotlight on the community

By Larry Blustein

It was a day that many had looked forward to since it was approved some years back. The opening of the new CRA-funded O.B. Johnson Park/Hepburn Center in Hallandale Beach had finally become a reality.

Whether you are new to the community - or have been there for decades - to see what unfolded this past weekend was indeed something that continued to put this community on the map - in a positive way.

Despite the negative city government exposure that has recently put this community in a bad light, things were quickly changed as dignitaries and politicians came out on Friday night to celebrate the new facility at 1000 NW 8th Ave., and also attended the dedication and ribbon cutting on Saturday.

“We have waited for this beautiful facility to become a reality for a long time,” said Mayor Joy Cooper. “What was truly started and spearheaded by former City Manager Renee Miller, and followed up by what our new City Manager Daniel Rosemond has done, this has been a team effort.”

Team effort is exactly what was on display this past weekend - as Mayor Cooper was joined by her Vice Mayor Bill Julian and Commissioner Anthony Sanders for a dedication and ribbon cutting that was attended by those who really care about this community. Residents and those who work in the community also came out to see this impressive structure that motorists have been watching unfold right on Pembroke Road.

For residents such as Kim Reese, the ribbon cutting gave her and her family a real sense of community. While Hallandale Beach is home to some of the most impressive destinations, having something that the residents can call their own, is exactly what everyone envisioned when the new facility was planned.

“I take nothing away from the buildings that were up - because for the years that my stepson and his friends have gone there - it was really tremendous,” Reese said. “But this new facility is something that everyone will talk about. It is amazing. We went for the tour and it’s like, this is ours. I commend those who worked so hard to get this done.”

Impressive Facility Opens
Hundreds poured into this 42,000 square foot complex on Saturday to get a look at this outstanding addition to the growing family of new parks and upgrades at existing ones.

Not only does the O.B. Johnson Park/Hepburn Center feature a Community Center and Indoor Basketball facility with a major league playing surface, but there will also be a computer lab, exercise room, social services facility, playground, after-school tutoring, tennis and football fields for the Hallandale Chargers PAL teams to play on.

Unlike the old facility, there will be much more parking on site, a teen center and recording studio as well.

“I have been in this city for a long time, and to have something like this, it is one of the best facilities I have ever seen, makes me proud of Hallandale (Beach),” Kari Johnson said. “I grew up playing in the old building, swimming in the old pool and playing baseball over there where the parking lot is. I am blown away by how impressive this is.”

Among the many programs held on Saturday there was also a look at the new basketball arena as the Miami Heat's newest player Willie Reed and NBA veteran Keyon Dooling, took on all challengers in a free-throw and 3-point competition to open the new OB Johnson Park, Nelson "Butch" Brown Gymnasium.

Dooling, who will join the Broward County Sports Hall of Fame on Oct. 24, has formed a partnership with Dooling Enterprises to operate a basketball program. Cooling is a 13-year NBA veteran and a native of south Florida. he plans to combine basketball with social programs to help the youth within the community.

Plenty of People To Thank
An undertaking such as this has so many people getting involved. Among those that Mayor Cooper recognized included the Parks & Recreation Advisory Board, Human Services Advisory Board, Friends of the Hepburn Center, Burkhardt Construction, Inc. and Kimely Horn for all making a major difference.

The ribbon cutting also attracted dignitaries such as Broward County Commissioner Beam Furr and U.S. Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz, and brought in local leaders as well as those from City government.

“This was truly an amazing project team that was put together,” said Deputy City Manager Jennifer Frastai. “This was indeed a success from start to finish.”

From O.B. Johnson and Austin Hepburn, Jr., to Nelson “Butch” Brown, Mary Washington and Elijah and Lena Alford, everyone finally had the opportunity to hear about the true legends of this community.