BOONE — While sitting in the space that will be one of four basketball courts in the new county recreation center, several officials recognized the work that has been done thus far on the 100,000-square-foot structure.
Members of the Watauga County Board of Commissioners, Watauga County staff and construction crew members gathered on July 31 to sign a steel beam — the last to be placed in the structure. The approximate $38 million center is being built on the 3.5-acre piece of property at the corner of State Farm Road and Hunting Lane. This site was home to Appalachian State University’s Business Affairs Annex building (also known as the old Lowes property), as well as the county’s swim complex.
Work on the rec center started last fall after it broke ground on Oct. 16. Demolition of the two facilities that existed on the property followed the groundbreaking, and steel started to be erected in April. With the last piece of steel going into the structure, the project inches toward finalization.
Thomas Heller, the Harper Construction supervisor, said he estimated the project to be about halfway completed.
“Thank you for all of the effort you’ve put into this project thus far,” Heller said to the construction crew. “We still have a mountain to climb in front of us, so let’s finish as strong as we started.”
According to David Fey — the senior project manager — roughly 85 crew members have been working per day on the rec center. When it’s completed, the work of about 34 companies will have gone into the project, he said.
Commission Chairman John Welch said at the event that the board was excited about the project, and talked about the massive size of the building. A building as large as the rec center hasn’t been constructed since the building of the high school in 2010.
“We’ve only been seeing drawings on paper, once you get in here, it’s a beast,” Welch said. “This has been 40 years in the making. We’re really proud of what you guys are building here and it’s been an incredible experience.”
Parks and Recreation Director Stephen Poulos got a little choked up when speaking about the project. He pointed in the direction of where the mobile home used to sit that the department had operated out of since 1985.
Poulos also spoke about a phone call he received months ago from a woman who said her husband was a local pediatrician, and that they had attended a meeting in 1975 at Hardin Park School discussing a recreation center.
“You don’t realize what this means to the community up here,” Poulos said. “This has been a dream.”
After a catered meal for the crew and those in attendance, Harper Project Engineer Ewa Parker led the commissioners on a tour of the facility as construction work resumed. County Manager Deron Geouque said he believed construction work was about two weeks behind, but indicated that crews should be able to make up for that time. He added that as long as the building is walled-in by the fall, the project should be able to finish on time in April 2020.