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Providence Recreation Department in Chaos

Wednesday, June 17, 2015


A crumbling weightlifting bench at Davey Lopes

The City of Providence Recreation Department, which was rocked by recent accusations of sexual assault by a former coach who committed suicide, has had a tumultuous past two years. 

From the unveiling of major infrastructure deficiencies at recreation centers while the city considers a taxpayer-aided baseball stadium, to a public (and political) battle over the fate of the Davey Lopes pool after it was closed in 2013, the Providence Recreation Department has been plagued by serious issues -- and now the city will have to handle the fallout of a former coach with a criminal background who was allowed to interact with youth at the city's recreations centers. 

Is the department in chaos?

SLIDES:  See the Providence Rec Department Controversies BELOW

"I've been talking about this for some time," said Providence City Councilwoman Sabina Matos of safety issues at the rec centers. "We don't have enough controls around who is in and out of the building -- some years we hire the same people, but we also hire temps --besides that, I don't think we have a good control who's in and out of the building."

A police report shows that on June 13, sexual assault charges were filed against Tyrone Dale, a coach who had previously plead nolo -- guilty --  to assault charges in 1992.  Following the charges, Dale hung himself. 

Coaching, Staffing Issues

Councilwoman Sabina Matos is calling for greater oversight of Providence's rec centers.

“The City’s number one priority is to keep our children and family members safe. The charges that were made against Mr. Dale are intolerable, and the City took decisive action when it learned of them," said Evan England, spokesperson for Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza. "Mr. Dale was immediately suspended without pay from his part-time position in the Recreation Department and was prohibited from entering all schools, recreation centers and other municipal buildings while Providence Police continued to conduct its investigation."

"The well-being and safety of our children is our primary concern, and the City has counselors available at the West End Recreation Center and at Juanita Sanchez Educational Complex," continued England. "The Mayor has instructed the City's HR Departments to immediately evaluate the current policy regarding background checks and devise a plan for more stringent evaluations of employees who have contact with children.”

Matos said that she has been working for years -- to not avail -- to get tracking software into the rec centers.     

"Funding was allocated for software to track who's coming in and out -- like the YMCA has -- and we bought the software, to put the staff schedules into the software, but it hasn't been implemented," said Matos.  "I started the conversation with Park and Recreation in 2011. I think the software was purchased in 2012 or 2013, but we've yet to use it."

"I think the events of last couple of days call on us to look at greater scrutiny how people get chosen to be in close proximity to kids, and revisit our policies," said Providence City Council President Luis Aponte on Tuesday. 


The Davey Lopes pool was shuttered in 2013 due to politics, some claim, adding to the controversies.

Aponte also spoke to the needs of the crumbling buildings -- and how they need to be addressed.

"At this point, our buildings are hodge-podge. Some have been stand alone, the newer ones have been added to our schools...the question is what's the best approach to providing recreational services? Maybe some of these buildings suffice, but the ones that are 'vintage', it might be a better use to co-locate with a school, or another community center," said Aponte.

"One of the things we use to do, we used to let rec directors be more entrepreneurial  and raise money from non-public sources," said Aponte.  "Each rec center could establish a support fund, businesses could support teams, from buying equipment, to provide trips (Water Country, at Pats game), all those things that the city can't provide."

"Under the Taveras administration, there was fear there were insufficient controls in place for individual rec center fundraising. I think that needs to be revisited," continued Aponte. "Given the current financial hardships, we don't have enough money to do the things that need to be done.  There are  partnerships to be had, and willing sponsors to be part of this.  We shouldn't bind directors' hands to raise outside funds, with the proper controls in place so those dollars go what they were intended for."

Matos said that a rec center infrastructure assessment would be forth coming shortly. 

"We've got CDBG funding in the budget that came from the Mayor's office to do a facility assessment,"said Matos, who then turned her attention back to the most recent events.

"It's unfortunate that it came to something like this," said Matos. "The center in my area used to have a pool.  It has a bunch of empty rooms people can get into.  As a mother, I don't want to think about what can happen. We should have had this conversation a long time ago."


Related Slideshow: Providence Rec Center Controversies

The City of Providence recreation department has had a number of controversies in recent years, fom the closing of the Davey Lopes pool, to the appontment of the latest recreation director who travels extensively for his NCAA refereeing job, to the unveiling of subpar conditions at rec center facilities as the city possibly considers taxpayer aided subsidies for a new PawSox stadium.

Prev Next

Davey Lopes Pool Closed

Taveras Admin’s Decision to Close Pool Called Political and Racist (July 2, 2013)

Former Providenc Mayor Angel Taveras opts not to reopen the Davey Lopes rec center pool for the summer of 2013. Councilman Luis Aponte speculated that it was political retribution against Councilman Davian Sanchez's not voting for the Taveras budget. 

Prev Next

Public Outcry to Politics

Providence Youth Outraged at Lack of Pools in Heat Wave (July 9, 2013)

When temperatures began running high in the summer of 2013, many voiced outrage against the closing of the Davey Lopes pool. 

Councilman Terrence Hassett stated, "How can you isolate kids like this, and not let them swim...These are young impressionable kids, who making friends at the pools, spending time with their families. What's better than that?"

Prev Next

Effort Grows to Reopen

Providence GOP Leaders Demand Mayor Keep Davey Lopes Pool Open (Oct 25, 2013)

Mayor Taveras continued to receive push back to open the Davey Lopes pool, including from members of the Republican party in Providence, who joined the re-opening effort.  Providence GOP leaders condemned the Mayor's closing of the pool, calling it a "clear case of right vs. wrong."

Prev Next

Davey Lopes Reopens

Davey Lopes Pool Supporters Declare Victory with Reopening (July 1, 2014)

Nearly a year after public outcry demanded that the Davey Lopes pool be reopened, community members gathered for a celebratory ribbon cutting to signify the reopening of the South Providence recreation center pool.  

Prev Next

Elorza Appoints Director

Elorza Appoints Michael Stephens Providence Director of Recreation (April 21, 2015)

Mayor Elorza appoints Michael Stephens, an NCAA basketball referee, as Director of Recreation Services.  Stephens, the former Deputy Director of Recreation, refereed the NCAA championship game, and is considered a top NCAA referee -- who travels the country extensively during the season.  

Prev Next

Director Reffed 86 in '14

Providence’s New Rec Director Won’t Give Up Outside $180K Refereeing Job (May 15, 2015)

New recreation director Stephens refereed 86 NCAA basketball games in 2014, at locations spread across the country that took him out of state for the majority of weeks during the season.  Stephens said he intends to ref during the next season, despite having a full-time job with the city. 

Prev Next

Centers Hurting, Pawsox

Providence Rec Centers Languish While City Considers Stadium (June 15, 2015)

The Providence recreation centers stand in need of repairs, while city officials face consideration of giving major tax breaks to relocate the PawSox to Providence.  

Prev Next

Rec Center Coach Suicide

Coach charged with second-degree sexual assault commits suicide (June 15, 2015)

Tyrone Dale, who coached at West End Recreation Center, committed suicide three days after being accused of sexual assault against a teenage boy at the West End Rec Center.  Dale had previously plead guilty in 1992 to an assault charge. 


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