Recreation center part of plan

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, January 22, 2003

In 1987, the Troy Recreation Board and Bo Gaylard, Director of the Troy Recreation Department, began a series of meetings to plan what would eventually become the Troy Sportsplex. According to Dan Smith, current Director of the Troy Recreation Department, the proposed community recreation center is the culmination of the vision outlined 15 years ago.

&uot;Originally we knew that we wanted to build four softball fields out there and then four more fields were part of what we called Phase 2,&uot; he said. &uot;We then put in a soccer complex and recently added some lights and the batting cages in 1996. But now, we have had the chance to purchase some land and we are looking into developing it with a new community recreation center.&uot;

The Sportsplex has its roots in a dream by Gaylard to build a first-rate facility for the city to use for recreation purposes.

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&uot;I share Gaylard's vision,&uot; said Smith. &uot;He knew that Troy loves its children and he realized that we need better facilities. Our current two gyms are almost to the point of being embarrassing and there's only so much a paintbrush can do.&uot;

Gaylard died in 1995 and Smith, who had been managing the Sportsplex, took over the final phases of the implementation of his vision. As director, Smith has expanded the Sportsplex and said he has attempted to provide services to all of Troy's residents.

Gaylard's goal of a community recreation center was also part of the 2001 report of the Pike County Chamber of Commerce. The report, called Vision 2001, was the product of over 140 citizens who provided input into county goals and both short- and long-term planning.

The report lists strengths and weaknesses of Pike County's recreation situation and says a major goal of Pike County is the construction by the City of Troy of &uot;a comprehensive recreation/cultural center.&uot; Two of the four &uot;threats&uot; outlined by the report to recreational opportunities involve the potential for loss of public support due to an aging population and &uot;limited passive recreation activities.&uot;

The center, which has yet to be approved by the Troy City Council, is still in early stages. The city is still drawing up requests for proposals and has not yet sent them to potential contractors.

&uot;We're still in discussions and doing research,&uot; Smith said. &uot;We've been calling every recreation department in the state and hearing about what kinds of facilities they have. We want to make educated decisions about what we want to build.&uot;

Early designs show the facility, which could cost several million dollars to build, as a multi-use center with an indoor heated pool, a rock climbing wall, racquetball courts, an indoor walking track and two basketball courts.

The project has drawn some criticism about the potential cost to build and maintain and a handful of worries that there will be competition with Troy's private gyms and fitness clubs. However, Smith is emphatic that the Recreation Department has not been given a blank check and said the project will be financially manageable.

&uot;I admire that the mayor and city council have checked us at every step and made sure that we are being prudent,&uot; he said.

Smith also said there was no truth to the rumors that the new facility would cause the city to close down existing facilities such as the Elm and Academy Street gyms and the Washington Street pool.

&uot;We're never going to close down those facilities and we're always going to spend the money to keep them up,&uot; he said.

The community center is also not the final project that Smith would like to see implemented at the Sportsplex. He outlined the potential for a two and a half mile outdoor trail at the complex that could be used for jogging, biking or rollerblading.

&uot;And we still need a few more baseball fields too,&uot; he added.

If the results of the building of the Sportsplex are any indication, Smith said, the new community center could energize the entire community.

&uot;When we built the Sportsplex, we saw a dramatic increase in participation. Young girls and adults that had not been participating at our other facilities suddenly came out to start playing and there was a certain sense of excitement about it all, and that's our business: providing those kinds of opportunities to the City of Troy and improving the quality of life here as much as we can.&uot;

Stephen Stetson can be reached at stephen.stetson