When Pastor Dan Miller arrived in the Back Mountain in 1993 to resurrect the then-fledgling Back Mountain Harvest Assembly Church, he predicted the area behind the church building would become known as a “city on a hill.”
What Miller didn’t know at the time was what kind of “city” that would be.
Today, the area known as the Rock Recreation Center, or Rock Rec, brings people of all ages together through sports. The building behind the church on Carverton Road in Trucksville offers a full-size gymnasium, a stage area, a cardio room, a multi-purpose room, a lounge with a pool table, an air hockey table, a TV and a kitchen area.
Rock Rec also includes the Valley Tennis and Swim Club, a 15-acre property behind the recreation center that was built in 1960 and purchased by the recreation organization in February 2010. That purchase added to the rec center’s repertoire eight clay tennis courts, an Olympic-size inground pool, an outdoor pavilion and a clubhouse that accommodates 140 people for graduation parties, weddings and family reunions.
Now, the faces behind Rock Rec’s success are looking ahead.
Elijah Miller, development director and Pastor Dan’s son, and Doug Miller, center director and no relation to Elijah and Pastor Dan, are spearheading a $4 million capital campaign to transform the recreation center into a sports complex. Included in the plan are a mutli-purpose field, major renovations to the swimming pool to add mushroom sprinklers and collapsible rock climbing walls, as well as an addition to the current recreation building, adding a second full-size basketball court with drop-down nets.
Trees have already begun to be cleared for the field which will be the size of a regulation football field with artificial turf and markings for soccer, field hockey and lacrosse.
“The 10-year mark means a lot,” Elijah, 26, said of the Rock Rec Center which started in 2003 with a simple vision. “We had no idea of the impact on the community this place would have. But in the middle of a recession, the Back Mountain keeps growing. And we have 10 years of wisdom behind us. We can look at what we have done and what we are not doing.”
A graduate of Dallas High School and Penn State University where he earned a Bachelof of Science degree in Busines Finance before joining the staff of the Rock Rec Center in 2007, Elijah sees sports as a “univeral link” and the rec center as a “cultural melting pot” catering to people of all economics, races and religions.
“Here, kids don’t have to be passionate about a particular sport,” he said. “It’s all about making new friends. It’s cool to see how sports brings every race and religion together.”
Currently, the rec center offers basketball and wrestling and hosts sports camps that offer wiffleball, dodgeball, swimming and soccer.
The center’s Upward Bound basketball program caters to about 330 participants in grades Pre-K to sixth and utilizes the services of 60 or 70 volunteer coaches. Its AAU basketball league features male and female cagers in grades 5 through 12 from Luzerne and Lackawanna Counties who travel to New York and Philadelphia and who are seeking college scholarships.The Rock Rec Center’s eighth-grade girls team finished eighth in the country last year.
An annual wrestling tourney in February brings about 175 wrestlers from all parts of Pennsylvania, New Jersey and upstate New York to Rock Rec and sends about 1,000 people into the Back Mountain community where they eat, shop and buy gasoline.
“Our programs have a definite impact on the local economy,” Elijah said.
The center also partners with Youth Wilderness Experience and offers air rifle and archery shoting ranges , firearms safety programs for children ages 6 to 10, pheasant hunts and fishing derbies.
The center, which currently has hundreds of members, has recently partnered with the Luzerne Foundation and is seeking donations from legacy gifts, naming rights and primissory notes that allow donors up to five years to make good on their promise.
Like the church, which had 15 members and more than $30,000 in debt when Pastor Miller arrived and boasts about 1,000 regular attendees today, the Rock Rec Center continues to grow. Use of the center does not require membership in the Back Mountain Harvest Assembly Church.
“When you walk through the doors here, you can tell this is a place that cares for the community,” Elijah said. “So much of a good thing has made it necessary for us to expand.”