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Rec center opens with hoops and water slides

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(Alison Penn Photo)

Mayor says facility represents ‘new attitude’ for Roswell

The Roswell Recreation & Aquatic Center opened its doors to the public for the first time on Saturday morning.

Ezekiel Valverde, 1, tests the waters of the outdoor pool at the Roswell Recreation & Aquatic Center at 1402 W. College Blvd., which opened on Saturday morning. (Alison Penn Photo)

A ceremony was held in the gym where city officials and staff, architectural firm Huitt-Zollars and Waide Construction Company expressed thanks to each other for their contribution and welcomed the public filling the bleachers. The Saturday public opening was announced on the city’s Facebook page via a live video, though it had been originally tentatively set for mid-July following a soft opening.

“… It’s an honor to be here and to be able to dedicate this building to our children, to this community …” Sanchez said before leading the invocation.

Roswell Mayor Dennis Kintigh said Saturday marked the “end of a five-year journey,” in which time the council had to make “hard decisions” regarding the Yucca Center and Cahoon Pool.

“I will maintain that this is not just a new facility,” Kintigh said. “It’s a new recreation center and new aquatic center, new features, new opportunities — but I think it is something much, much more. I think this is a representation of a new attitude and the attitude is we will not accept anything less than excellence that this community has sacrificed, worked hard (for). We want what’s best for our community — and as Councilor Sanchez said so eloquently for our children.”

Jim Burress, Parks and Recreation Director; Recreation Manager Marcus Gallegos; Aquatic Director Jessica Walker, from United Pool Management; and Joe Gallegos of Huitt-Zollars architect firm in Albuquerque shared a few words.

“To the children and youth here today, this center will not only shape your present, but will also shape your future,” Joe Gallegos from Huitt-Zollars said. “I wish you all happiness and health as this building shapes your bodies, minds, spirits and soon shaping your own beautiful memories. …”

The gym was ceremonially used for the first time with some of the city councilors, each paired with a child, shooting hoops. For the outdoor pool, Kintigh was the first to go down the slide and Councilor Angela Moore dove into the water.

After the ceremony, the building was cleared to reset the building and open the facility for people to pay to use the pool or rec side.

Kintigh also recognized Tabitha Denny, a former city councilor who assisted in beginning the rec center’s origination. In a written statement, Denny, who used both the Yucca and Cahoon in her youth, said it became her mission to make the community “better for all of our kids” after seeing the condition of the Yucca in 2014.

“I know many believe we should not have built the recreation facility or have torn down the Yucca or Cahoon Pool,” Denny said. “However, if we stay stuck in the past, we can never move forward — moving forward is part of growing. The memories each of us created at each of those places will be with us forever and no one can take those from us. …”

The Yucca Recreation Center, formerly at 500 S. Richardson Ave., was closed in December 2016 and demolition was completed in 2017. Cahoon Pool at 1101 W. Fourth St. was closed in April 2016 and demolition began early last week.

Taking a break from shooting hoops in the gym, Gabriel Trujillo and Nick Cobos said they liked the new rec center. Trujillo, 17, said the new center was “10 times better” than what he remembered of the Yucca Center, and Cobos, 15, said the rec center “was the best thing so far.”

Father-daughter duo, Evan Wakeman and Brynna Wakeman, 7, were sitting by the pool. Brynna Wakeman said it was “amazing” and she liked the slides. Evan Wakeman said the new facilities were a lot better than previous ones and encouraged people “to get out here — it’s fun.”

On July 13, 2017, the City Council voted 8 to 1, barely passing for the supermajority threshold, or 8 votes from the 10 councilors as required by the state to pass bonds, to approve a $23 million bond for the rec center construction, fees and interest. The bond is being paid for by increases in gross receipts taxes, which will retire in 18 years.

City/RISD reporter Alison Penn can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 205, or at reporter04@rdrnews.com.