Oxford’s TRI building history dates back to 1960s; community support for current board sought

FILE: More than 2,000 video games are available in the Teen Center at the TRI Building giving high school and middle school students a place to relax and hang out. This photo was taken in 2020. CONTRIBUTED

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FILE: More than 2,000 video games are available in the Teen Center at the TRI Building giving high school and middle school students a place to relax and hang out. This photo was taken in 2020. CONTRIBUTED

OXFORD — Everybody knows the TRI Building. It’s where city’s Parks and Recreation Department has its offices and a host of events are held in the upstairs gym. There’s a ball field, skate park and other recreation facilities.

What most people do not realize is the TRI property does not belong to the city.

It is owned by a separate non-profit organization — Talawanda Recreation Incorporated — which provides the facilities to the city for community recreation programs.

“Nobody really knows what the TRI is. They do not understand the difference between the TRI and Oxford Parks and Recreation Department,” TRI Board President Doug Curry said. “People do not understand the history of what the TRI is.”

Talawanda Recreation Incorporated was established in 1966 as a non-profit organization to provide recreation facilities to the citizens of the Talawanda School District.

The effort took a giant step forward two years later when, on Dec. 26, 1968, six acres of land were donated by Arthur P. Goldner, June E. Goldner and Margaret V. Cogan for the TRI facility. Groundbreaking for the building came in 1969.

Curry cited a quote from Arthur Goldner about the TRI facility and what it meant to the community.

“A facility to bring people together for better understanding and to improve the moral stature of our community, what is important is how we use it,” Goldner had said.

Construction cost $250,000, donated by 10 groups, 246 families, 54 civic organizations and 18 corporations.

The building was dedicated in 1970 and was completely paid off the next year.

On Dec. 26, 1972, the TRI board deeded part of the land to the city of Oxford for construction of a new community swimming pool to replace the one which had been located on the grounds of the Oxford Country Club. The city paid $1 for that deed which included a provision that the land would revert back to the TRI organization if the pool were ever closed.

That is exactly what happened when the Oxford Aquatic Center opened in the Community Park and the TRI pool was closed and removed.

Kris Rose Winkler, a member of the TRI board, who grew up in Oxford has fond memories of those formative years and the role activities at the TRI played in them.

She remembers the season pass for the pool as a coveted prize. Kids would go to the pool for the day and not leave. It was a social and memorable time. She remembers teacher Dale Rolfes at the entrance to the pool with his young daughter in a stroller.

“I rode my bike there every day,” she said. “You would be hard-pressed to find someone in the community who does not have memories of the TRI.”

Curry said there have been changes to the TRI board with retirements of Marvin Wilhelm and Jay Bennett as well as changes to the TRI facility with the addition of pickleball courts but the board has had facilities on its radar for years.

“Marvin and Jay retired but it will not change. We’ve talked about the condition of the TRI area for years. We’ve talked about facilities for years,” he said. “We’re starting to create a structure of the board to put our fundraising to do something to serve the Talawanda area.”

He said they are investigating various possibilities and have formed five subcommittees of the board – city liaison, fundraising, marketing, facility planning and legal.

“Once the pool closed, it opened things up for us.” Winkler said. “There are no ties to taxes. The question is do we want to better the community.”

The growth in the TRI organization reflects the growth in recreational opportunities in the city. Curry offered a timeline which showed the city’s first Recreation Board was established in 1940 with George Rider as chair. Bob Artz was hired in 1956 as the city’s Recreation Director – half-time with his half-time duties as a Talawanda High School physical education teacher.

The city made the recreation director a full-time position in 1970. City Council increased the $1 per year lease for the TRI property to $3,000 and in 1976, a TRI Enhancement drive began which resulted in a lighted ballfield, outdoor basketball court, tennis courts and the purchase of six additional acres from Cogo, Inc.

“We do not run any programs. For the TRI, it’s money in/money out. If (OPRD Director) Casey (Wooddell) asks for something the money comes right back,” Winkler said.

Ralph N. Fey was another of those early movers for the TRI effort. Curry offered a quote attributed to him as saying, “Let good use justify what good will has here made possible.”

The TRI Board currently has nine members and they are looking for more help from the community. Curry invites anyone willing to take part to contact him.

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