Morgan Family Community Center
Endless park amenities and opportunities
North Port residents will be able to enjoy another topnotch recreational facility in the near future when the Morgan Family Community Center opens. The 33,000-square-foot building located behind the baseball and soccer fields at Butler Park at Price Boulevard will offer something for everyone. It is situated across from North Port High School and is adjacent to Heron Creek Middle School, and is designed to be a meeting place for the North Port community. The center will have a game room, large fitness center, teen lounge, arts and crafts room, dance room, a large multipurpose room with kitchen, meeting rooms, administrative space and an outdoor social area, including a playground and a basketball court large enough to be divided into two full courts.
Bill Ward, states “We’ll have a lot more recreational opportunities at the new Morgan center. Programs that North Port has not experienced yet we’ll now be able to offer. The community center is a $10.3 million project and funding came from escheated lot revenues and the general fund. The City Commission has decided to move forward on a 50 meter competition pool instead of a mid-size family aquatic center. We’ve been limited because of space, and now we can expand our exercise programs and meet the greater need for programs such as Pilates, jazzercise and aerobics. The fitness room has increased in size and number of machines. We have a new teen lounge and game room, which we didn’t have at the Mullen Center, so it will give teens an area to hang out with friends, a place to go after school and play their video games or do homework. We hope to have a teen board that will help relay the interest and desires of youth members. We’ll be able to offer volleyball, pickle ball and badminton, provide table tennis for seniors, and expand our men’s basketball league. And we’ll be able to rent our multi-purpose room for weddings, expos, and special events. We’ll be able to offer a potpourri of activities for young and old and everyone in between. Additional meeting space will be available and that will give us more flexibility. We are beginning to meet the needs of our community.”
Morgan Family Contributions
When a community building is named for a resident, it is many times because of the deeds and endeavors of that individual. In the case of Joan and Ed Morgan, their accomplishments are so lengthy that it could lead to a separate story.
According to Joan Morgan, “Ed and I lived in North Port since 1972 when our children were very young. Holly was two and Kevin was 10 months old. Lots of what we did was for our kids. In North Port you needed to provide everything: play groups, swimming lessons, day care, schools, Little League, girls’ softball, charity drives, parades, youth groups, church activities and whatever was needed. Since my folks had moved here we worked for activities for senior citizens along with kids of all ages. Our projects were necessary for the community to survive. We knew we needed to go to a city manager-form of government and needed representation on the school board and County Commission, so the small group of us worked on everything. We are not special, just ordinary parents that had to provide for our kids and my parents to make the town work.”
The list of Ed and Joan Morgan’s accomplishments is a long one. Both graduated from State University of New York at Albany and Ed taught higher-level mathematics at area high schools. Joan taught history and law at Lemon Bay High School for 20 years. She was elected City Commissioner in 1977 and started the education program for the North Port Chamber of Commerce. Joan started and organized Mighty Mites and girls’ softball, and North Port’s Business and Professional Women chose Joan as “Woman of the Year” in 1984. She was awarded the North Port Chamber of Commerce “Business Person of the Year Award” in 1991. The 1989 Lemon Bay High School yearbook was dedicated to her and the Florida Council for the Social Studies chose her as high School social studies “Teacher of the Year” in 2000.
The Morgans were instrumental in getting schools in North Port and Joan was active in pre-school and day care activities. She coordinated plans to get the first kindergarten in North Port located at St. Paul’s Presbyterian Church started in 1974. In 1979 they built North Port Learning Center and Day Care on Biscayne Boulevard. They took over total ownership in 1982 until they sold it in 1994.
Ed was chosen by his students to be listed in “Who’s Who Among High School Teachers.” Lamarque Elementary School awarded Ed and Joan the “Outstanding Innovative Project” award for 2007- 2008 and the 1994 Lemon Bay High School yearbook was dedicated to Ed. He has been a member of the School Advisory Committee at North Port High School for the past three years.
Ed and Joan have been volunteers for Sarasota County Schools for the past six years and are active members of Zoomers Southwest Florida Running and Triathlon, where Joan was awarded “Volunteer of the Year” in 2009. Ed was named in the November -December 2010 issue of Florida Running and Triathlon as one of the top 5K Florida runners in his age group.
Joan added, “It’s an ‘out of body’ feeling having the center named after us. We have so many friends and family that worked to make this happen. It seems so hard to believe, it really hasn’t hit us. We are strong believers and know that we are not special and feel even more humble.”
So when you or your children walk through the doors of this truly magnificent recreation facility, think of the two passionate North Port residents who inspired it. And enjoy!
For more information on the Morgan Family Community Center and other parks and recreation facilities in the City of North Port, visit www.cityofnorthport.com or call Bill Ward, Parks and Recreation Manager at (941) 429-7206.