Canceled contract marks new future for Cairns Center

By: Dean Vaglia | Mount Clemens-Clinton-Harrison Journal | Published March 18, 2024

 The Cairns Community Center is being run as Mount Clemens’ third recreation center with a focus on indoor youth sports.

The Cairns Community Center is being run as Mount Clemens’ third recreation center with a focus on indoor youth sports.

Photo by Dean Vaglia


MOUNT CLEMENS — Much can change in the span of a year.

About half a year into the Cairns Community Center’s reopening and acquisition by the city of Mount Clemens, city officials agreed to extend the operating partnership with TCB Youth Mentoring and Advancing Macomb’s “Breaking Barriers to Play” program. Officials also began seeking out grant funding to improve its facilities, including entering the running for a $900,000 state grant to build outdoor playing fields and a retention pond. As the end of the year approached, the future seemed stable for the community center.

But not everything goes as planned. By February 2024, the city lost an operating partner in TCB Youth Mentoring and discovered the $900,000 grant was not awarded. Questions about the city’s plans for the center were raised at the March 4 City Commission meeting with nearly a dozen residents asking about the center.

In short, the Cairns Center is the home of indoor youth sports under Mount Clemens Parks and Recreation, contrasting with the Groesbeck Center’s focus on senior activities.

The change came after the city and TCB Youth Mentoring mutually ended their operating contract at the end of 2023, making the city the building’s operator.

“TCB actually approached Laura Kropp and myself in November and stated that they were having trouble acquiring funding to keep programming going and maintain the lease on the building,” Mount Clemens City Manager Gregg Shipman said.

After discussing plans about how to go forward, both parties agreed to see the agreement through the end of the year and have Mount Clemens Parks and Recreation take over operations in January 2024.

Youth recreation programs at the center continue to be offered through the “Breaking Barriers to Play” program, and the city is open to having other organizations host activities at Cairns.

“If an organization or a person wants to come in and teach a class, they simply contact our recreation director,” Mount Clemens Mayor Laura Kropp said. “She discusses the parameters they have to operate under, and then they can hold a class and it can be at Cairns.”

While the grant from the state never came to Mount Clemens, the city has used Community Development Block Grant fund grants to upgrade the center’s air conditioning and install a new $150,000 outdoor playground this summer. City officials will continue to pursue grants to support the center.

The new era of city recreation marks another chapter in the Cairns Center’s history. It was intended to be run originally by the Mount Clemens Community School District. In 2022, the city took the center over from the school district, putting more than $400,000 into repairs and capital projects and investing $45,000 in programing.

“We’ve applied for four grants and received three of them, totaling approximately $500,000,” Shipman said. “I can tell you that we haven’t done that for any other facility we own.

“So if anybody is trying to say that we’re not investing in it, that not only is wrong, but I can show that we’ve invested more in that building than any building that we own,” Shipman said.

People and organizations looking to host programs at Cairns and other recreation facilities can call (586) 469-6800 ext. 520 or email Residents interested in programs at the center can visit 30 N. Groesbeck between 8 a.m. and 3 p.m. Monday through Friday, call (586) 469-6800 ext. 520 or go online to and search under the “Sports” tab.