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Second year celebrated at island’s Recreation Center

By Staff | Dec 16, 2009

It was seven years in the making, but in the two years since the Sanibel Recreation Center opened its doors, many people in the community can’t conceive of living for even one day without it.

Earlier this month, the $14.6 million, 86,000-square-foot facility celebrated its second year of operation with a gathering attended by Mayor Mick Denham, longtime Parks & Recreation Advisory Committee chairman Armand Ball, veteran Sanibel Little League Commissioner Dick Meunch and more than 100 participants from the Center’s daily after-school program.

“Seeing what this building has become is very rewarding,” said Ball. “It took seven years as a committee to build the facility to replace the dilapidated one. Not only is this a great place for children, it’s a great place for families to enjoy together.”

Opening on Dec. 1, 2007, the Sanibel Recreation Center project was not funded by the city alone. Lee County Board of Commissioners contributed $3.2 million and $1.6 million came from the Lee County School District. The island’s former recreation facility was severely damaged by Hurricane Charley in 2004.

“To me, having the new Rec Center means more people can enjoy activities together. There really is something for everyone,” said Barry Alan Roth, a supporter who is in charge or coordinating the city’s New Year’s Eve Party at the facility. “Right now they’ve got 59 classes with instructors per week, offering everything from yoga to stability ball to swimming.

“This place is so much more than just a pool and some stairmasters,” he added. “And membership is very reasonable. There are activities for people of all ages.”

During the second anniversary ceremony, children from the after-school program were invited to submit poetry expressing their feelings about the Rec Center. Fifth grader Sarah Heidrick’s poem, titled “The Rec Center,” was short and simple:

Pelicans are snack and homework

Ospreys are Wii’s and foosball

Spoonbills are art

Ibis’ are dancing

Herons are board games and Legos

Gym’s are big with hoops

This is all at the Rec Center!

Eighth grader Mario Garcia’s poem was a little longer, and offered a mixture of comedy and rhyme:

I like my counselor Max

He always tells me the facts

To be really friendly

I know I can do this task.

I love to listen to music

It keeps me really relaxed

I’ve learned about so many bands

From my counselor Max.

I had fun playing football

It gives me such a thrill

And going outside

Makes me wanna chill.

Everybody knows me

Garcia is my name

And I know next year in high school

Will never be the same.

Other poetry winners included Aidan Donovan (kindergarten), Siena Pailes (first grade), Grace Timm (second grade), Megan LaManna (third grade), Claire Minoui (fourth grade), Brianna Anderson (sixth grade) and Nick Oliveri (seventh grade).

Following the ceremony, everybody was invited to enjoy an anniversary cake and refreshments.

Ball wanted to offer thanks to some of the islanders who helped bring the Rec Center from concept through completion, including Muench, Vice Mayor Kevin Ruane, former Recreation Department Director Helene Phillips and all of the City Council members who supported it.

Asked what he would tell somebody who had never been to the facility but was considering becoming a member, Ball offered a rather simple request.

“Go see it,” he said. “Take a look inside and see what you think. If you ask me, the Rec Center speaks for itself.”