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.

(5) comments

billspizza2016@gmail.com

Blust, and many of the other commissioners are the problem. Boone is growing, so get over it. This will serve our citizens well. There's a Blue Wave coming ya'll!!!

craig dudley

we're told we live in a democracy from our earliest days, and that increases when we're in our indoctrination years in 'school' for at least a dozen years or more. really what we have is nothing like democracy and frequently we have visible reinforcement for that like in this case with the 'rec' center. its an obvious play for special interests which ain't us. there is no intelligence in the process. voters have already said they don't want it. my taxes have risen fifty percent in recent years for these things we're told we have to have in spite of saying we don't want them. how soon before we're sent to 're-education camps' for publicly opposing political corruption of the sort we see now? how many of 'our' representatives/commissioners are making how much money from this 'boondoggle'?

Cyclops618

It is extremely disappointing to see our community and political leaders support tax increases and more debt to finance this lavish and over-designed facility. Even our Republican commissioners, who in past campaigns have boasted that they are the champions of fiscal responsibility and opposed to local tax increases, now support higher taxes and profligate spending for a facility that will be used by a few but paid for by all County tax payers.

Originally estimated to cost $35 million to construct, its estimated cost has already increased by over $3.5 million before construction even began. This means the County will have to borrow over $23 million to cover the cost of construction.

And once the facility is opened, the County is projected to lose over $375,000 a year for at least five years and likely much longer. And with subsidies promised for those who can't afford to pay the fees for using the facility, these operational costs portend future and frequent tax increases for all County taxpayers, whether or not they use the facility.

Proponents of the new rec center claim that it will promote health and wellness, but they ignore the fact that there is an existing state-of-the-art Wellness Center run by the Appalachian Regional Health System just two blocks away.


This entire effort is a prime example of tax and spending run amok. While it is apparently too late to scale back this extravagance, it is not too late to vote against those commissioners and the candidates for County office who support this irresponsible fiasco.


Donald

How about spending this $35 million (which will be closer to $50 million before finished) on upgrading and fixing our schools, rather than a "legacy" Rec Center we don't need. The counties property owners will pay and a very few will use. Not responsible spending of our hard earned money!

Cyclops618

Too late late now, Don. But at least we can vote against those Commissioners who support this tax and spend agenda. Trouble is, our GOP Commissioners and candidates are now supporting this irresponsible spending. Only David Blust seems willing to take on the local interests behind this spending debacle.

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