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Little Rock community centers reopen after pandemic-filled year

Terric McDaniels hasn't stepped foot inside West Central Community Center for months.

LITTLE ROCK, Ark — Terric McDaniels hasn't stepped foot inside West Central Community Center for months. Because it was one of three centers opening back up in the city, he brought his friend Chris Bonds. 

He says he heard about the gym opening back up so he wanted to play basketball. 

"Ever since COVID started, we haven't really been up here to play basketball so it feels good to be back up here," said McDaniels. 

After taking temperature checks, signing in on a sheet asking COVID-19 related questions, they walked into the gym after also being warned that a two-hour interval was in place and they were on one hour left for free play. 

Two hour intervals are one of the ways that the director of Parks and Recreation for the city, John Eckhart, said are a part of the reopening.

"After every two hour block we clean each area. While the attendees are there we ask them to clean up after themselves as well. We're focusing that more on our fitness rooms and basketball courts," said Eckhart.

He said with COVID-19 case numbers going down, combined with vaccinations it allowed them to take these steps to reopen.

People still have to wear masks and are reminded to wash their hands in the facilities.

"We're excited to get our centers back open, to get some people back into the buildings. It's very much a soft opening though," said Eckhart. 

They plan on opening up remaining centers in early May for the summer.

For McDaniels, he's just happy to be back hooping. 

"With everything going on in the world right now, I feel like it's like a safe house to let us young men come up here and play basketball knowing that we're safe in a good environment. It feels good to be back," said McDaniels.

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