‘Luckiest People’ Belong To Clark Sports Center

‘Luckiest People’ Belong

To Clark Sports Center

Former ACC Gymnasium Honored

With Chamber Quality Of Life Award

Instructor Katherine Walters leads the Prime Time exercise class at the Clark Sports Center.  (Ian Austin/AllOTSEGO.com)

By JENNIFER HILL • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com

Jane Moyer credits swimming at the Clark for reaching age 99.

COOPERSTOWN – Jane Moyer has been exercising at the Clark Sports Center for 70 years, which may explain why she is still going strong at 99.

She is one of 36 nonagenarian members – after 90, membership’s free – and they may best exemplify why Otsego County Chamber of Commerce chose the Clark Sports Center its Quality of Life Award to be presented at its Summer Soiree Thursday, Aug. 22 – for the first time, at the Clark.

Funded by the Clark Foundation from its inception in 1891 to its renovation and expansion completed in 2017, the Clark Sports Center has, in the Chamber’s words, “significantly contributed to the quality of life in this area by providing amazing programs and opportunities for the local population to attain a healthier lifestyle.”

But for Moyer and the multiple generations of families, the Clark is part of family and community life, a place that has shaped lives, futures and connections between villagers and people living throughout the county.

“That was the place to take my children to from when they were young,” Moyer said.  “They always had classes and programs my children could be in.  It was always a family place.”

Back in the 1940s, when Moyer, her husband Ward, and her five children first joined, it was called the Alfred Corning Clark Gymnasium and was located downtown in what today is the Hall of Fame administration building.

“We went to the bowling alleys,” she said.  “My son Jim, he was age 7 or 8, would set up the bowling pins for his father after he knocked them down.  There were no machines to do that back then.”

The Moyer children went to ACC after school every day, playing in the competitive basketball leagues and taking swimming lessons.  After all Moyer’s kids were in school, she began taking swimming classes, which turned into a lifelong healthy habit.

Clark Sport Center Director Val Paige discusses the challenges of the day with her assistant director, Scott Whiteman. (Jennifer Hill/AllOTSEGO.com)

“That was the place where everyone went to, where everything happened,” she said.  “I remember going to the Christmas dance every year and having a wonderful time.”

Moyer also admires the Clark’s customer service.

For instance, when the pool was closed for a year during the 2016-17 renovation and expansion, Moyer told Director Val Paige she worried about not swimming, because “swimming keeps me alive.”

Paige fixed the problem: “We made arrangements with Fox Care in Oneonta for our members to use their pool … “We paid their fees, and people could keep working out during construction.”

The center also gives free membership to pupils eligible for free or reduced lunches, and helps low-to-moderate income families pay for memberships.

“Anyone who wants to become a member can become one,” Paige said.”

That approach is why Paige – a 42-year employee – and other staff members stay there so long.

For instance, Assistant Athletics Director Scott Whiteman.  He grew up in Cherry Valley and has worked at the center for almost 20 years; he was in Paige’s swim classes from age 7 to 11.

“I was raised at Clark Sports Center,” he said.  “It was the only place that had basketball in the area.  Kids from everywhere came to the sports center.  Some of my best friends today are ones who came in from other towns.”

In summers, “we take our equipment and instructors out to places, such as Cherry Valley, Edmeston, Unatego and Worcester, and hold weeklong camps for the kids,” he said.  “In Worcester, our basketball camp is $40 for a week, but the Booster Club there pays $20 of it, so the families only pay $20 for it.”

Whiteman, Paige and other staff all used the same word in describing the Clark Sports Center – “luckiest.”

“Anyone out of town who happens to visit the Center says, ‘You all are the luckiest people in the world to have this place,’” said Whiteman.  “And I’m the luckiest person to be able to work here, teaching kids and seeing people throughout the years.”

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