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Arlington center was 'home' for senior dancers. They're looking for a new home now that it's closed

Event-goers sit at a table that bears a yellow cover and a sombrero. A centerpiece photo shows an old picture of Arlington's Eunice Activity Center, and a car parked in front of the building.
Emily Nava
Former patrons of Arlington's Eunice Activity Center reminisced about the building in early May at the Bob Duncan Center. The center opened in 1972 and was a hub for older adult programming. City officials in March announced the center would not reopen after contractors found infrastructural issues while making repairs after the deadly 2021 winter freeze.

Thelma Albertson feels like she and her group of dancers are starting from scratch after losing their favorite Arlington dance spot.

The group waited for more than two years to return to Arlington’s Eunice Activity Center. The city building was known for robust programming for older adults, spacious event center and its hardwood floor. Like other venues, it closed during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. The next year, the deadly February 2021 winter freeze damaged the building.

Albertson and her group waited as one delay after another moved their return date. They found other dance halls, though none offered the same size or rates.

“Every year, it was, ‘OK, it’s going to be completed the end of spring. OK, the end of summer, the first of fall, the end of the year,’” Albertson said. “Every year, we got that.”

Finally, the group learned in March they would never return. Contractors found infrastructural problems in the activity center. Repairs and updates required to put the building in compliance with city code would have totaled around $2 million—more than half of the building’s value.

Eunice Activity Center sits at 1000 Eunice Street in Arlington. A chain link fence is set up around the building, which has construction materials surrounding it. Parts of its facade have yellow taping on it.
Kailey Broussard
Eunice Activity Center has been closed since 2020.

City officials will incorporate the Eunice Activity Center property into Arlington’s masterplan for Meadowbrook Park. Parks and recreation staff have hosted multiple public input sessions for the space and are still accepting input.

Meanwhile, Albertson and her crew of people are on the hunt for a building that measures up to their now-defunct spot.

“It was quite a dance hall. Everybody loved it. Everybody loved going to Eunice Street,” Albertson said. “We were pretty, well, disheartened to learn that it was no more.”

An ‘extended family’

Dancers describe their group as “family,” regardless of their location.

Albertson holds a binder full of laminated memories—country nights, centennial birthday parties, themed evenings. She started dancing with the group in 2011, then took over the dances in 2018 when the host became ill.

The events, now stationed at St. Jude Event Center along South Cooper Street, have recently brought in about 74 or so dancers each Thursday night. Comparatively, dances at the Eunice Center would bring in at least 100 dancers per night, twice a week.

The space in St. Jude May 11 felt like part celebration, part family reunion as revelers caught up with old friends between dances and mingled with new ones.

“Everyone here is just my extended family, and I love being with everyone,” Pene Enochs said. “We always have such a great time. Bands are always good here, and everyone is friendly.”

Thelma Albertson's hands parse through an album from dances at Arlington's Eunice Activity Center. Clip art says "country dance," and multiple men in cowboy hats can be seen dancing with women.
Kailey Broussard
Thelma Albertson's hands parse through an album from dances at Arlington's Eunice Activity Center.

The dances have been Enochs' connection to friends. Enochs said she doesn’t get out much, but getting out to dances in Arlington has been one of the highlights of her life.

“It’s so important for older people to get out of that comfort zone and move around. When you don’t, I think that’s when it’s time to go bye-bye,” she said.

Experts say exercise and opportunities to socialize are paramount for older adults. Physical activity in adults 65 and up can reduce the risk of falling, improve brain health and help secure more years of independent living, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Researchers have linked loneliness to a greater risk of heart disease, stroke and premature death.

Albertson said she’s watched the effects of isolation affect her dancers during the COVID pandemic.

“People were holed up in their homes not able to get out,” Albertson said. “Some of them just couldn’t get up and walk anymore.”

And while the St. Jude Event Center is a lovely venue, she said, the spaces in the floor pose a risk for dancers, especially people who wear heels.

In addition to looking for future venues, Albertson is looking for ways to financially support the dances. She formed a nonprofit to support the dances. She’s happy with the amount of people who make it out to Thursday dances, but feels like there’s room to grow.

“I need more financial wise, but it’s a good number just to begin with,” Albertson said. “I feel like we’re just beginning again.”

Programs for older adults in Arlington have moved from the Eunice to the Dottie Lynn Recreation Center and the Bob Duncan Center. The long-awaited Activ, or Active Adult Center, is slated to open in late 2024 and include multipurpose rooms, a full-court gymnasium and special events space.

Albertson said she’ll wait and see the offerings at the Activ. However, senior centers she’s consulted have rates that are out of reach.

“Every senior center that I’ve talked to about my dances and our seniors, they want $500 for rental, if they rent … I don’t know what they’re going to do. I’m assuming it won’t work out. But it might,” Albertson said.

For now, the wait continues, but so does the dance party.

Got a tip? Email Kailey Broussard at You can follow Kailey on Twitter @KaileyBroussard.

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Kailey Broussard is a reporter for KERA and The Texas Newsroom through Report for America (RFA). Broussard covers the city of Arlington, with a focus on local and county government accountability.