Since it opened in the 1950s, the recreation center at BREC’s Anna T. Jordan Community Park has been a hub of activity in Scotlandville. But in the hot summertime, community gatherings held there, like Saturday’s Community Music and Heritage Festival, are drowned out by the roar of huge floor fans.

The recreation center does not have air conditioning — though that won’t be the case for much longer.

BREC and city-parish officials on Saturday broke ground on a $1.75 million project to renovate the center and build a 6,400-square-foot addition that will include a fitness center, conference room, computer lab and dressing rooms. Work will begin this week and should be done within a year.

“It’s a very old facility. It’s time to renovate, to build and expand and, guess what — put air conditioning in the gym,” BREC Superintendent Carolyn McKnight said to a cheering crowd. “... It’s a total makeover.”

The project, approved last week by BREC commissioners and awarded to J. Reed Constructors, has been a long time in the making, McKnight said. She credited state Sen. Sharon Weston Broome, whose district includes the park, for helping secure $1.4 million in state capital outlay funds for the renovation. The remaining $350,000 will come out of BREC’s budget.

“We know how recreation is so important to the lives of our citizens,” said Broome’s legislative assistant, April Hawthorne. “Not only will this recreation allow economic development, but it will also provide a quality of life for our community.”

Baton Rouge Mayor-President Kip Holden recalled playing sports on the park’s field as a boy in the 1960s.

“Our dressing room was we put on our uniform before we left home,” he said. “... The shower was when we got back home.”

Soon, those facilities will be available at the park, which Holden described as a welcoming place for young and old people alike.

The renovation project is the “talk of seniors” who come to the park, said Recreation Manager Dominique Barlow. Despite its dated facilities, the recreation center plays host to numerous programs, including aerobics, line dancing, ceramics classes, family finance workshops and a kids’ playground program.

“It’s historic in the community,” Barlow said. “... Everybody still comes that started with the park. They come back, they support the park, they come to events we have here, and they’re very involved.”

Among those events are the annual Community Music and Heritage Festival, which features live bands, kids’ activities and a health fair, drawing a total of about 400 people. The Scotlandville Hornets Alumni Association has hosted the show for more than 10 years, said Paula Braxton, a 1970 graduate of the school.

“It’s just a community and family day,” Braxton said.

Scotlandville Magnet High School and the Anna T. Jordan park both unite the community, Braxton said. As a gathering place for neighbors, the park was where social movements in the past few decades took shape in Scotlandville, she said. It’s also an important resource for families in the area.

“Family is important,” Braxton said. “It’s the lifeblood of a strong community and our nation, so any way we can help solidify the bond between family and community, we want to help do that.”