New Port Richey aquatic center making a splash
NEW PORT RICHEY - The city's best-kept secret might be the New Port Richey Recreation and Aquatic Center, officials believe. The secret is out, though, after a fifth anniversary celebration last week that introduced scores of people to the center at 6630 Van Buren St. Pickleball players Jeffrey Baker and Justin Lawrence returned to shoot for a world's record of the longest continuous game, 24 hours. The Tampa Bay Aquatics swimming team put on watermelon swim relays and other demonstrations.Dory Ecock led a water aerobics demonstration to highlight the weekday 9 a.m. pool exercise class. City council members Bob Langford and Judy Debella Thomas chatted with spectators. Samuel Applegate, 2, the son of Public Works Director Sherman Applegate, appreciated the lollipops passed out at the event. The city Parks and Recreation director, Elaine Smith, and her son Tanner, 12, wore the 2007 grand opening commemorative T-shirts they dug out of their closets. The $12 million expansion opened on May 19, 2007. Mayor Bob Consalvo, then the Parks and Recreation director, "really had this vision," Smith recalled. "People often think that you have to live in the city to come here, and it's really open to everyone," Smith said. The city recently realigned its fees to reduce the expense for guests who live outside the city limits. City officials are trying to boost use of the recreation and aquatic center to increase the amount of revenue it generates and reduce its impact on the city budget. As part of that effort, the city is expanding the fitness center with new gear, Smith said. A machine for a full-body workout is supposed to arrive within a few weeks. "We put a sports floor down, which makes it a lot quieter — it's a rubberized floor," Smith said. Goals in the next budget include the purchase of more treadmills and creation of a child day care center for exercising parents. "We've seen a lot of changes over the years," said Greg Giordano, vice chairman of the New Port Richey Parks and Recreation Board. He has been on the board for two decades. The old facility was the size of a postage stamp by comparison with the current recreation center, Giordano said. The center now offers a gym, fitness center, game room, three pools, a water slide and many other amenities, Giordano said. He credits "a host of dedicated volunteers" who helped make it happen. Giordano emphasized the summer camp program as a "value that can't be beat," with fees about half the cost of similar programs. The camp stretches over 10 hours a day, 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., to fit better into the schedules of working parents. "The city had a fantastic vision," Giordano said. "It has come to life" with a recreation center "second to none."