Community leaders and politicians gathered at the center that mainly serves low-income minority youth from central Bradenton neighborhoods to dedicate a wing to Congresswoman Kathy Castor and to tour the center for the first time.
Castor, D-Tampa, was instrumental in securing more than $250,000 to develop the 16,800-square-foot center and provide modern computer equipment.
"Things like this do not get accomplished without everybody chipping in," she said. "This community has set a course for success and opportunity for thousands of children."
More than 100 children, ages 5 to 15, began doing homework, playing basketball and making friends at the facility in June.
The center, at 922 24th St. E., replaced the aging 70-year-old facility on the west side of U.S. 41 and is located within the newly updated Norma Lloyd Park in Bradenton.
The 20-acre park has improved baseball fields, a soccer field, basketball courts, jungle gym and playground.
The center also boasts a 7,000-square-foot gymnasium, weight and fitness rooms, an arcade area, computer labs, four classrooms and offices.
Several children migrated from the dingy portable classrooms, cracked basketball courts and dirt fields of the old facility to the new center with murals painted by Ringling art students on every wall.
"They definitely have more respect for this building," said front desk worker Cicely Hicks. "And the whole group is more unified because everything is all together."
Parents can register a child for the center's programs for a $30 annual fee, Hicks said.
"This is a 'safe place' without the designation," County Commissioner Gwen Brown said. "It's a positive place around positive people teaching positive lessons."
Champs Sports was a major backer of the center, as was Patrick Carnegie, executive director of United Community Centers and overseer of the Dream Center.
"He grew up here and he stayed to make it a better place," Castor said. "This center is a tangible example."