BOONE — The 40-year talk of building a new recreational facility in the county is starting to come to fruition.
Officials came together Oct. 16 to break ground for the new Watauga County Recreation Center that’s planned to open in March 2020 at the corner of State Farm Road and Hunting Lane. Each of the six people who spoke at the event reiterated that the project has been a “long time coming.”
County Commission Chairman John Welch said at the ceremony that it’s great to see the vision of community members — like Denny Norris and the late William Horn — finally realized. Welch said the two men had been advocating for a facility such as the rec center for many years, and he was proud to be a part of this “game changer” building.
Norris — chairman of the Watauga County Parks and Recreation Commission — talked about how beneficial the rec center will be for the community. He said this building will help aid in the growth of the county.
“It’s something that’s long overdue,” said County Manager Deron Geouque. “The new community recreation center will focus on being a leader in health, wellness and recreation, and providing exceptional and innovational programs and services that will result in measurable and transformational changes in the lives of those who live and visit our community.”
Welch said the facility will provide a safe location for all of the county citizens to recreate and socialize year-round. He added that no matter a person’s abilities, age or financial means, the county will find ways to include anyone who wants to participate.
The rec center will provide expanded hours and services, child care, continuous youth camps, offerings for students during the summer, possibly some snow day programs, community events and an overall general place for people to gather, Welch said.
Commissioner Jimmy Hodges commented that the facility will be a milestone for Watauga County. He said that he’s kept in mind an email he received from someone who made a statement about the rec center leaving a legacy for future generations.
“I have eight grandchildren, five great-grandchildren; this will be something that will be a legacy for them,” Hodges said.
Commissioner Perry Yates reminded the crowd that Watauga County citizens’ tax dollars are helping to pay for the building and said he hopes the community will use the facility as a way of “coming together.”
“This is a chance we have to grow as a people, lay politics aside and do something that’s right for the elderly, middle aged and children of the future,” Yates said. “I want to employ all of us to do that and work together and be a success.”
Watauga County Schools Superintendent Scott Elliott spoke at the event about how the board of education unanimously passed a resolution in March 2017 in support of the recreation center. Elliott said the rec center will be an anchor for the community and should be the definition of community.
“...what is good for our community and what is good for our families is good for our school system,” Elliott said.
Those in attendance also heard from the project’s architect — Chad Roberson from Clark Nexsen.
Representatives from various groups attended the event, including Watauga County Schools, Appalachian State University administrators, Recreation Commission members, Boone Area Chamber of Commerce, town of Beech Mountain, town of Boone, town of Blowing Rock and Caldwell Community College and Technical Institute.