Living in Bryant is like being on vacation.
Residents of the community about 20 miles southwest of Little Rock have already received accolades from national publications for the quality of life in the city. Bryant was ranked as one of the most affordable suburbs in America in 2010 by Bloomberg Businessweek. And in 2009, Money magazine included Bryant in its top 100 best places to live in the country.
But it was The Center at Bishop Park, a 70,000-SF community center, and neighboring Aquatic Center featuring activities for people of all ages, that earned Bryant an Arkansas Business 2012 City of Distinction Quality of Life honor.
“The Center was built to provide adequate, well equipped facilities that everyone could enjoy in the community,” said Ben Wilson, Bryant’s community development manager. “It was to be the place that would … build a strong sense of community through recreation, sports and fitness involvement.”
Both facilities cost a total of $11.5 million and were paid for with a sales tax dedicated for the city’s parks department, Wilson said.
Bryant partnered with the Central Arkansas Development Council and the Boys & Girls Club of Bryant to open offices in The Center, which opened in late 2010.
The moves have been a hit with the community. The Central Arkansas Development Council launched a Senior Activity & Wellness Center, which is one of only two in the state.
“The goal of the Senior Activity & Wellness Center program is to offer a vibrant and engaging community for our seniors,” Wilson said.
The senior program is jammed with activities ranging from weekly trips to Little Rock’s Farmers Market, regional quiz bowls, dances and tai chi classes.
“The program’s current and long-term value to the community is providing a bridge to our seniors so they can engage with the world around them in a positive way,” Wilson said. “Knowing this program is in place provides an incentive to stay in Bryant after retirement age.”
For the children of Bryant, the Boys & Girls Club offers enough activities to keep them from moaning, “I’m bored,” even on rainy days.
It has indoor basketball courts, a game room, a teen center and arts room. In addition, it features the Chris and Adele Holmes Technology Center that has desktop computers with wireless Internet.
The Boys & Girls Club also hosts a family night three or four times a year and partners with other organizations, such as Saline Memorial Hospital, to offer free health screenings.
For the program, “Passport Around the World,” guest speakers who have lived outside the United States relate their experiences with other cultures, foods and customs. Other programs focus on providing nutrition and fitness training for students.
The Boys & Girls Club “gives Bryant youth a safe and positive place to go after school and in the summer,” Wilson said. “The goal is to provide youth with engaging activities to help build their social skills, character and health.”
The Bryant Boys & Girls Club serves about 500 children a day, Wilson said.
Next to The Center is the Aquatic Center, a 24,000-SF glass building with a retractable roof. The Aquatic Center opened in 2011 and features an Olympic-sized, indoor/outdoor swimming pool and a therapy pool.
“The multi-purpose use center is designed for diving competitions, swim meets, swimming lessons, therapy, … and recreation such as movie night and birthday parties,” Wilson said.
In addition, the complex has a program created for seniors that offers exercise and therapy programs, Wilson said.
“The current and future benefits of the Aquatic Center are hours of enjoyment, improved health and well being and inspiration to all to keep improving on quality of life choices,” Wilson said.
Wilson said The Center has not only improved the lives of residents in Bryant, but also those in surrounding communities who use the facilities or programs.
“That is a great testament to the effectiveness of a community and its programs when its contribution reaches beyond its borders,” he said.