Lindsay fast tracks sports/rec center

By C.J. Barbre

It's already in the works. OK, five months have passed since Lindsay City Council members and some staff stopped by Chelsea Piers in New York City and thought, ‘What a great idea for Lindsay!' It has been four months since City Manager Scot Townsend first discussed it with the Lindsay District Hospital Board and just a few weeks since the city decided to purchase the old McDermont packing house and create a sports and recreation center aimed primarily at youth activities without involving other entities. The initial approach had been to include it as part of the Wellness Center.

And now the time line is exactly six months, what Townsend said it would take to open such an operation, at least for phase 1 and phase 1 isn't shoddy. City Finance Director Kenny Walker is in contact with the owner and working actively with the title company. As soon as they close the deal on the purchase of the building, cleanup begins along with renovating the restrooms. The indoor track, indoor soccer and sport courts will be done in time for a March 2006 grand opening. This is in the big, boxy south building which will be extended 67 feet to the north so a 30 by 60-foot viewing platform can be included. At Chelsea Piers such a platform was used for children's birthday parties and the party goers could watch sports activities below on either side. Townsend said this platform would also have gymboree-type climbing equipment underneath for the amusement and physical activity of the younger set.

At the Oct. 11 Lindsay City Council meeting Wellness/Recreation Director Brad Albert could hardly contain himself. &#8220This is one fun project. I feel really lucky to be a part of it,” he said almost giddily. His enthusiasm is contagious. He said the old packing house has a lot of character and a lot of different aspects. &#8220When I really started looking, ideas started to grow.”

As Hermosa Street, the entryway into downtown Lindsay, is in fact a rather grand, palm tree-lined boulevard and the trees are lighted after dark, the idea of having neon-colored artificial palm trees on Sweet Brier Avenue in front of the Field House is a trendy tie-in with California panache. &#8220They will give a real different and distinctive look in yellows and greens and blues,” Brad said.

&#8220Our vision for the Field House is a multi-use facility with different forms of activities.” He said they could expect a rock climbing wall and dance classes for young and old. In phase 2 they will renovate the north structures to house the fitness center, gymnastics and boxing areas, more restrooms and build the skate park outside to the north. That is scheduled for April to September 2006. Meanwhile the skate park committee is forming. They held their first meeting last Thursday with council member Danny Salinas chairing the committee. The city is pledging $45,000 toward the building of the skate park and additional funding sources include Tony Hawk Foundation and private fund-raising. &#8220We could start small and add above ground ramps and rails,” Brad said. He is very excited about &#8220getting the voice of youth involved.”

In phase 3, the old wood packing house part will be renovated. The basement of this portion is the laser tag arena. There are plans for an outdoor water park and landscaping. Phase 3 is to be completed by january 2007 for a grand opening of the whole facility. It's really not that far off.

If possible, Brad was even more enthusiastic about the laser tag. &#8220It's a good activity for a lot of different age groups,” he said. &#8220The 13,000 square foot basement is bigger than anything in a 50-mile radius.” He said at only 20% of maximum usage, first year revenue would pay for the equipment. &#8220Visalia charges $7 for 10 minutes times 20 people.” That's about $1,000 an hour at full capacity and you don't have to go in in gangs of 20. It's a continual moving groups type operation that one person can run.

Brand said equipment for the fitness center would probably be leased initially. And the icing on the cake, if any is needed, is the wildly popular indoor arcade sports equipment. Brad had 10 interactive games on the list including Kick-It Pro, a soccer simulator; Downhill Biker, two virtual bikes; Air Trix, a skate board simulator; Dance-Dance Revolution, a dance machine that is a full aerobic workout that will keep you hopping; Super Shot, a basketball toss game; Rolling extreme, a street luge simulator; Alpine Surfer, a surfing simulator; Air Hockey; Rush 2049, a two-person driving simulator and MOCAP Boxing, virtual boxing. The price tag on all of that equipment is $48,200. But they would pay for themselves in a fairly short time.

&#8220Dance-Dance Revolution keeps kids active. It's a partial answer for childhood obesity,” Brad said.

&#8220This is recreation but it is also economic development.” When teams and tournaments come to town they spend at the local businesses. And the Friday Night Farmer's Market already draws huge crowds. This is just down the street, with ample parking.

As the council thanked Brad for his presentation he commented, &#8220It doesn't seem like work, especially when I talk to young people. They're real excited and think it was a good decision to separate from the Wellness Center.”

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