Rec Center members, staff celebrate third anniversary
While not quite the celebration experienced after its first year of service to the community, nor last year’s less modest soiree, members, staff and volunteers at the Sanibel Recreation Center gathered on Friday to acknowledge the facilities’ third anniversary.
On Friday, children and teenagers took time to share their fondest memories and moments of the 86,000-square-foot building in words and artwork. A makeshift gallery showcased a number of colorful creations made by the after school program enrollees, and several essays were displayed.
“I like the teen room. It is fun,” wrote John Peterson. “It has video games, it is kind of big. It is cool. It has a TV and an Xbox and Wii and ping pong.”
Colleen DePasquale, a Rec Center board member, praised the amenities, classes and programs available at the new facility that are far superior to the former site.
“I remember the old Recreation Center… it smelled like an old, sweaty gym,” DePasquale said. “This facility is so great, especially due to its proximity to The Sanibel School. I work off island, so if it weren’t so close to the school property, my daughter wouldn’t be able to enjoy as many sports and activities as she does.”
Sanibel City Council member Jim Jennings also spoke at the celebration. He was thrilled to see so many people — including residents and visitors to the island — making use of the facilities’ pools, cardio and weight lifting equipment, tennis and basketball courts, exercise rooms and other amenities.
“It’s so nice to see this facility become one of the central meeting places of our city,” he said. “Some people were worried that it wasn’t going to be used by the community, but we’ve been setting new records for attendance.”
Jennings also recalled the struggle it took to get the Rec Center project off the ground.
“We went through some considerable changes to make this place happen,” he added. “But after the community and our project partners got together and made this happen, it’s truly amazing to see it become such a success.”
Opening on Dec. 1, 2007, the $14.6 million 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.
Rec Center member and volunteer Rosalie Fairman, a resident of Sanibel for more than 20 years, smiled as she looked around the reception area.
“I love its openness,” said Fairman. “The way it was built, it lets the sun shine in. You don’t feel like you’re closed in. The way it’s designed, everything is accessible.”
However, she liked another aspect a bit more.
“The people who work here are very friendly,” Fairman added. “They make it so pleasant to come here. That’s the best thing about it — the people.”