By Harley Nefe
Watauga County Parks and Recreation personnel said they are very excited to announce that the Watauga Community Recreation Center will be opening on Monday, April 26, 2021.
This announcement comes after long-awaited anticipation from WCP&R staff and community members alike, as the pandemic delayed the opening of the new WCRC.
The facility was completed in late May 2020, but at the time, North Carolina was in the “Safer at Home” Phase II of restrictions, and gyms were not allowed to open. When the state moved to allow 30% capacity in gyms and exercise facilities, it was still not practical to open the WCRC. However, that is about to change in less than 60 days.
Between now and opening day, WCP&R staff are busily making plans for operations in about two months.
“Now that we have a target date, we can begin hiring and training,” said Stephen Poulos, WCP&R Director.
Poulos also noted that things are subject to change, and WCP&R is adjusting their programming to fit the situation. For example, the WCRC is currently hosting vaccination clinics in two of the gyms.
“At this point, we are going to continue doing the vaccines in the two gyms, and of course, we’ll have to adjust our programming,” Poulos said. “I got four gyms, but I’ll only be able to use two for programming going forward. The county is committed, and we 100% support that as long as they need our venue for vaccinations, we will continue to offer that service through our facility.”
Except for the two gyms being used for vaccines, WCP&R intends to open up the entire facility with everything being operational.
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.
Details about the programming schedule, the locker room availability, childcare, birthday parties and more are forthcoming.
WCP&R is following Governor Roy Cooper’s Executive Order 195 and is adjusting and preparing operations accordingly.
“Right now, the Governor’s orders run through the end of March, so we could make plans and then we may have to readjust in early April,” Poulos said. “Whatever happens, we will adjust accordingly going forward.”
Social distancing protocols and capacity numbers will be known better closer to the opening date.
“Right now, I know what the 50% capacity will look like and how we’ll handle that,” Poulos said. “If the Governor comes out with a new directive, it may be the same and we’ll stay at 50%, or he may change things, and we’ll adjust accordingly. Right now, we’re making plans the best we know. We’ll require masks, just like he requires masks. If he changes that, then we’ll follow whatever guidelines Governor Cooper and NCDHHS comes out with.”
Community members can sign up for memberships starting today by either visiting the WCRC at 231 Complex Drive or going to https://rec.watgov.org.
“We had a good turnout this morning online and people have come in,” Poulos said. “There has been a nice response this morning, and of course, our social media has blown up on us with positive comments and people signing up for everything. So, we’re very excited about the options going forward.”
Community members can sign up now, and the passes will be active first thing in the morning on Monday, April 26, when the WCRC opens.
“As always, we are so appreciative of our community,” Poulos said. “We are so appreciative of the Watauga County Board of Commissioners past and present; we are so appreciative of Deron Geouque and the County Manager’s office for everything they’ve done to make this a reality. It’s been a long time coming to get to this point. We’re very excited and appreciative of everybody involved.”
A link to WCRC’s promotional video can be found here: https://fb.watch/3Z6bjesboh/ (or embedded at the top of this page). In addition, a table of the different membership fees can be found below. Any questions can be directed to the WCP&R staff at (828) 264-9511.
Pictures from the new Watauga Rec Center: