Citing declining membership as the reason, operators of the Seabrook Family Christian Center on Ridgway Road have announced that the facility’s last day of operation will be July 1.
A letter sent to members Friday said, “The citizens of Pine Bluff and Jefferson County no longer support an organization and related facility that must depend on the membership as its primary source of funding such as Seabrook.”
Rob Cheatwood is the chairman of the board of directors, and Duke Fakouri, who is vice-chairman, said Monday that in 2007, there were 407 members on the rolls at Seabrook, while at the end of last year, that number had dropped to 64.
“We’ve got an aging population, and we started doing exit surveys when people left,” Cheatwood said “They’re telling us that their kids are grown up and they don’t need us now.”
With its beginnings as the Pine Bluff Boys Club on Main Street and with various name changes and locations, including the Merrill Center, “the goal has remained the same,” the letter said. “Provide quality activities and services in support of membership families.”
Fakouri said the facility, which opened on Hazel Street in the mid-1900’s, has tried to change with the times, adding day-care, summer camps, and big screen televisions with game consoles for video games. Additionally, the facility tried hosting video game tournaments, but there was little interest shown in these events, Fakouri said.
“The idea was well received ,but there was low participation,” he said.
According to the letter, the facility and related sports fields, which have hosted a number of baseball tournaments in the past, will close as well.
“The board has not given up, but feel as stewards entrusted with guiding this organization, we must preserve the accomplishments of those that came before us and find a new direction with sustainable financial rewards in the future,” Cheatwood said.
He also said the board is not opposed to partnering with other organizations in the future and possibly allowing the ball fields to be used for tournaments and other activities.
“We’re not saying we’re through or that we’re going to have a big fire sale,” Fakouri said. “We’ve got a huge investment and we need to find our niche, but right now we don’t know where that is.”
Even with the declining membership, the letter said many people have continued to provide support and contributions long after their children or even grandchildren have grown and stopped participating at Seabrook.
“Your faith in this organization stands as proof that many lives have been touched by Seabrook,” the letter said. “Should you choose to continue your support, rest assured it will be put toward the continued maintenance of the facility and grounds as we search and explore options that will once again allow us to serve the citizens of Pine Bluff and Jefferson County.”