By Harley Nefe
Watauga County Parks and Recreation personnel along with dignitaries and other special guests gathered for the ribbon cutting ceremony of the new Watauga Community Recreation Center on April 23 to celebrate its opening day, which is today, April 26.
This ceremony comes after long-awaited anticipation from WCP&R staff and community members alike, as the pandemic delayed the opening of the new WCRC. The recreation center was finally able to open to the public at 6 a.m.
“What an exciting day,” said John Welch, Chairman of the Watauga County Board of Commissioners. “Finally, we’re able to gather distantly to mark an unbelievable occasion. An occasion that’s been 30, 40 years in the making, and I can’t tell you how excited I am.”
Attendees of the event first gathered in one of the brand new gyms to listen to opening remarks from various individuals of the Watauga County Board of Commissioners, Watauga County Recreation Commissioners and more who have all shared a part in the making of the facility.
“I want to thank everybody in Watauga County who helped make this possible,” said Billy Kennedy, Vice-Chairman of the Watauga County Board of Commissioners. “It took a lot of pieces to put together and multiple commissioners over the years. We listened to what people said, and we tried to make it happen. This is a beautiful building, and it shows that when we all come together, we can do incredible things.”
Audience members included Representative Ray Pickett, Senator Deanna Ballard, former Chairman of the Watauga County Board of Commissioners Jimmy Hodges, former Watauga County Commissioner Perry Yates, President/CEO of the Boone Area Chamber of Commerce David Jackson and many others.
“This is truly a great day,” said Charlie Wallin, Watauga County Commissioner. “Here we are. We finally made it, and there’s been a lot of people in this community who have put a lot of work into it.”
Clark Nexsen and Harper General Contractors are partners with Watauga County and designed the WCRC and built the facility to last.
Matt Johnson, who is the Vice-President of Operations for Harper General Contractors presented the audience with a couple of fun facts about the facility.
He said that there is over 800 tons of steel creating the skeleton for the large facility. Also, the two pools contain over 236,000 gallons of water, which would equate to 3.8 million cups of water.
The recreation center is a 100,000 square foot facility featuring a six-lane competition pool with a climbing wall, a leisure pool with a 20-foot slide, four multi-use gym courts, a fitness center with weights and exercise rooms, birthday party rooms, fitness classrooms, event space and an elevated jogging track.
“I can’t tell you how thrilled I am, and it’s an honor to have this facility,” said Stephen Poulos, Director of Watauga County Parks and Recreation.
After brief speeches were made by various individuals, everyone then moved outside to the front of the building for the ribbon cutting.
There were also a couple of extra unveilings that occurred at the event including that of the groundbreaking shovel on a plaque by the building entrance and of a quilt made from Boone’s Mountain Laurel Quilt Guild.
“We thoroughly enjoyed it, and we are glad to be a part of this new building,” said Susan Sweet, who is the chairperson for workshops and special projects of the Guild.
They made sure to have every area of Watauga County represented on the quilt as the WCRC is a space for everyone to enjoy.
And the enjoyment has finally begun, with the facility being open to the public now. Any questions can be directed to the WCP&R staff at (828) 264-9511.
Photos by Ken Ketchie and Harley Nefe from Friday’s ribbon cutting ceremony: