Over century-old West Philadelphia rec center getting multi-million dollar renovation

An over century-old West Philadelphia recreation center where NBA legend Wilt Chamberlain once played as a child is getting a multi-million dollar renovation.

The Shepard Recreation Center on the 5700 block of Haverford Avenue opened in 1921 and over the years has fallen into a state of disrepair that includes a sorely worn hardwood basketball floor. 

State and community officials gathered at Shepard on Thursday to proudly present a $2.3M check from the state towards fixing up the crumbling and tattered rec center. 

The money will be paired with $13M in city funds already dedicated to the center from Mayor Jim Kenney's beverage-tax-funded Rebuild program. He called the rec center investment life-saving. 


"What happens here, what goes on here, saves lives," Kenney said. "It saves lives, it gives young people positive adult contact, and it allows them to develop friendships with each other." 

Kenney was credited Thursday for muscling through the beverage tax to pour about $400M into repairs of rec centers, parks and libraries. 

Late last summer, police said five people between 17-25 were injured in a shooting near Shepard where about 100 shots were fired. 

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Shepard Rec Center opened in 1921 in West Philadelphia.

Shepard will get an expanded gym with seating for fans, a new floor, new bathrooms, air conditioning and a redesigned entrance to replace steps that some visitors find treacherous. 

"We see hundreds of students, we see hundreds of young people, hundreds of families coming out to enjoy the amenities that currently exist," State Rep. Morgan Cephas said. 

Construction on the Shepard Rec Center is slated to start in June and last for about a year.