By Harley Nefe
Watauga County Parks & Recreation is holding tours of the Watauga Community Recreation Center where the public can see what the new facility has to offer.
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.
Available dates for the tours include April 15, 18 and 20. Each day has two start times for the tours: 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. The tours are free, but there is a limit of 20 people per group, and masks are required to participate. Interested people can call WCP&R on weekdays between 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. to reserve a spot.
“Tours are filling up, so if you want to get a tour, jump on it,” said Stephen Poulos, WCP&R Director.
These tours come before the official opening day of the recreation center, which is on Monday, April 26. This opening day comes after long-awaited anticipation from WCP&R staff and community members alike, as the pandemic delayed the opening of the new recreation center.
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 recreation center. However, as restrictions have eased, preparations are being made for opening day.
“It’s going to be great,” Poulos said. “We’re very excited to get this up and running.”
WCP&R staff are following Governor Roy Cooper’s executive orders, and will be under 75% capacity limits. When visitors scan in, they will be asked what facilities they are going to, as the recreation center has a capacity counter, so staff can keep track of attendance numbers.
“I think it’s good now because people are being more conscious of wiping down equipment and social distancing,” Poulos said.
Staff members will also schedule times to shut down the different facilities for additional deep cleaning. In addition, masks are required including during exercises.
Poulos further said that all of the amenities will be open, except for the childcare space. WCP&R staff are waiting until 100% capacity; however, that is subject to change.
The WCRC is also still hosting vaccination clinics in two of the gyms.
“We’re very supportive,” Poulos said. “We need to get the vaccine out to help our community.”
Other preparations that are being made include hiring and training new staff members, and WCP&R is primarily in search of lifeguards.
The WCRC is a facility that partners with SilverSneakers, which is a health and fitness program designed for adults 65+ that’s included with many Medicare Plans.
Community members can also already sign up for memberships with the WCRC by either visiting the facility at 231 Complex Drive or going to https://rec.watgov.org. If registering online, members will still have to visit the recreation center to get their pictures taken. This is to avoid members visiting the facility by using someone else’s membership.
Folks who are interested in getting a membership can sign up now, and the passes will be active first thing Monday, April 26, when the recreation center opens at 6 a.m.
“I would encourage people to sign up earlier and not wait until the day of,” Poulos said. “We’ve already had some people sign up for just a month to see what it’s like, and we also had a bunch of people who bought yearly passes and are ready to go. There’s a lot of excitement.”
There will be a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the WCRC on April 23 with dignitaries present.
“Once we’re past covid, the plan is to do a grand celebration to open up — to do something more for the public,” Poulos said. “We’re excited for our community. It’s been a long time coming. We’re close to finally opening up, and we couldn’t be more thrilled.”
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 of the new Watauga Community Recreation Center: