Santa Barbara City councilmembers ceremoniously reopen the Carrillo Center
Cole Connelly

The downtown Carrillo Recreation Center is finally back in full swing after a one-and-a-half-year, $5,214,590 makeover. The center graciously accommodates over 100,000 visitors a year, and was well overdue for renovations as it approaches its centennial. The facility was “well loved, well used, and sorely in need of improvements” said Nancy Rapp, Santa Barbara’s Parks and Recreation director, at the center’s ribbon cutting ceremony on September 1. The project was made possible and entirely funded by the Redevelopment Agency.

The historic landmark now boasts a revitalized 550-person ballroom, warm chandeliers and outdoor lanterns in the place of sterile fluorescent lighting fixtures, cardinal red hardwood floors and French doors in its Founders Room, a third dance studio, and an alcohol permit. “Never have the architectural details really stood out as they do now,” remarked Rapp.

Entrance to Carrillo Center ballroom
Cole Connelly

Jason Bryan, the senior recreation supervisor at the Carrillo center and the man largely credited with making the renovation project a reality, believes that the new elevator is one of the most impressive improvements to the building. Apparently it is not an easy task to insert an elevator into a building without altering the structure significantly, but the architects have squeezed one in to the benefit of the many senior citizens and disabled persons who use the upstairs studios.

Leslie Wiscomb, who serves on the Parks and Recreation Commission, put into perspective just how much more the two-story brick structure is to Santa Barbara than simply a public dance center. After the 1925 earthquake, she noted, the Carrillo center was one of the only downtown buildings left standing; it served as an important evacuation center and focal point for many important services. Some of the studios were even used as makeshift jail cells for Santa Barbara’s prisoners. In the ’40s, the building switched hands and became property of the City of Santa Barbara, and in 1993 it was finally recognized as a historic landmark.

Councilmember Bendy White, who takes advantage of the classes at the Carrillo center himself, cut the ribbon to welcome Santa Barbarans back to the city’s core recreation facility. Ten displays were scattered around the building highlighting changes made throughout the refurb process.

The ribbon-cutting ceremony also served as a lead into a First Thursday Art Exhibit. For those who didn’t make Carrillo center’s debut events, the week of September 12-17 will be a second opportunity to experience what its facilities have to offer. A multitude of classes, including Jazzercise, Zumba, Martial Arts, Ballet, Belly Dancing, and Salsa for adults, and Origami, Gymnastics, and Kung Fu for kids, will be free that Monday through Sunday. Stop by the center on 100 East Carrillo Street at 5:30 on the 12th to see the opening night instructor exhibitions and enter a raffle to win a prize package of free classes.


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