Havelock Recreation Director Dave Smith would like to remind parents that the city’s recreation center is not a day care facility.
As the calendar flipped to a new year, a new rule at the center requires children under age 14 using the facility to be accompanied by a parent or guardian.
Smith said children at the facility for practices with a supervised coach or instructor are permitted, but he said once practices or games are over, the children must have a parent or guardian with them.
"It’s not a day care," Smith said of the recreation facility. "Coming in here to the center right now, our fees for anyone 17 and under are only a dollar so I can see why the temptation would be to bring a kid here thinking we’re probably the cheapest babysitter in town, but we’re not set up for that. That’s not what we’re designed for. We’re designed for kids to come and be active and participate."
Smith said some parents have complained since the the new rule was implemented.
"Sometimes they really get upset and almost belligerent when the staff tells them that we can’t watch your child," he said. "We’re not equipped to be a daycare."
Smith said the biggest problem has been on Saturdays when the day is full of basketball games and practices.
"The games or the practices are over, the coach goes home and we’ve got a lot of young kids that are here throughout the day, or sometimes they are dropped off here in the morning even though they don’t play until later in the day," Smith said. "Kids are going to be kids and if you leave 8-, 9-, 10-, 11-year-olds on their own for a full day, they’re going to be productive for a little while but eventually they’re going to find some things to get into, either in the restrooms, hanging out at the concession or just playing tag through the halls.
"We don’t want one of the little ones running through the halls and running into grandparents that came to see their grandchild play ball and the next thing you know you have an accident, or multiple kids running into each other or having a spat. If you put the little ones there for a long time, a lot of times bad things can happen."
Smith said the recreation staff is often too busy with games and managing the exercise room to monitor the children.
"They kind of have their hands full. They’ve got too many other things they have to do," Smith said. "We’re just asking parents to help us out. If their kids are under that age they need to be with them."
Smith said the new rules are not designed to restrict children at the center.
"We want the kids to come. We want them to be here at the center. We want them to have a good time," he said. "We don’t mind them staying the entire time while we’re open but at the same time we want them, if they are under a certain age, to have adult supervision to make sure they are acting as they should so that it’s a good enjoyable experience for all."
Smith said he understood that, for many, the recreation center is the only place they have to go
"We want them to be able to come here and be loud and work off the energy that they need to," he said, "but we want them to do it where it’s safe and in a method that’s enjoyable for all that are here."