Residents of the South Side’s Villa Coronado neighborhood are worried about the Father Roman Community Center, which has been closed since October — stoking fears it may not reopen.
The city-owned building was closed after a park staffer made a “visual observation,” the parks and recreation department said in a statement, and officials called for a structural assessment — but four months later, residents say there’s been no communication from the city about what the observation was, the outcome of the structural assessment and what the plans for reopening are.
“I just want to communicate. Tell me what’s going on with the building. It’s not me who needs it. It’s the kids,” said Olga Martinez, president of the Villa Coronado Neighborhood Association, during a regularly scheduled meeting Wednesday evening.
Parks and recreation department spokeswoman Connie Swan told the San Antonio Report on Thursday that the staffer saw “interior cracks and shifting in the gym.”
The meeting Wednesday happened inside the Metropolitan Health District resource center building on the grounds, which remains open, as well as sports facilities like the basketball and tennis courts and playground. The neighborhood association invited parks and recreation staffers to answer questions residents had about the closure, but none attended the meeting.
The lack of details about the potential structural issues has Martinez worried history could repeat itself. In 2023, a vacant building that was once a dental office was slated to be demolished, but Metro Health stepped in to make it a resource center after neighbors advocated to save the building.
Martinez told a table of community stakeholders including a neighborhood safety officer and a Metropolitan Health District policy analyst that she’s emailed, texted and called the City Council District 3 office and the San Antonio Parks and Recreation Department. “The only response I got is, ‘We’ll update you.’ But update me on what?” she said.
Swan said the city has communicated about the closure through the council office; the website, which states “Closed for maintenance,” on social media; and on the sign at the center. A facility closure website says simply that the center is “temporarily closed for a structural assessment until further notice.”
Swan told the San Antonio Report in a statement that the assessment can vary in time length and scope, but that its “immediate priority” was to adjust operations for recreational youth programming for the community.
At the building, officials placed a closure sign on a black fenced gate blocking access to a Little Free Library, still holding at least a dozen books.
During the meeting, three sweaty, flushed-cheek boys holding a ball walked in to grab apples from the baskets of fruit and vegetables in the lobby area. During spring break and the summer months, local children participate in programs like youth sports leagues, table games, dance, arts and crafts, residents said.
Outside, children in the Spurs Youth Basketball League played basketball after the sun had set in windy, 66-degree weather. A city employee supervising the event at the entrance said the games are usually held indoors and that because the center is closed, the teams had to play under outdoor lights, with parents and friends cheering them on from bleachers and lawn chairs.
Now that portions of the youth programming was redirected to nearby centers that neighbors say aren’t within walking distance, they wonder whether programs previously held inside will continue this year.
The first priority was to find a temporary home — whether outside, in different buildings or at other centers — for the Father Roman Community Center’s ongoing programming, the parks department said. Now it is “finalizing next steps, including any capital improvements.”
Martinez said she has emailed the city’s parks and recreation department and the office of District 3’s councilmember, Phyllis Viagran, for months, but no information about the future of the center has been shared.
Viagran’s office said it defers to the parks and recreation department for information, and that it is committed to ensuring the district and neighborhood associations stay well-informed of the temporary closure.
“People are calling me, [but] what do I tell them? I just tell them, ‘No one wants to tell me.’ So they [neighbors] just think the worst,” Martinez said. “If it can’t be renovated and they demolish it, I want to make sure what’s the next step. Are they going to rebuild?”
The parks and recreation department said that once next steps are identified, a corresponding plan would include community engagement and go through any city processes necessary. No timeline has been set.