LARGO With sweltering temperatures, it was everything J.D. and Blake Ozack could do not to run through the spouting water falls and sprinklers Sunday afternoon at the new Highland Recreation Complex in Largo.
The 40,000-square-foot facility opened its doors to more than 8,000 visitors Sunday, offering tours of its state-of-the-art equipment, giveaways and information about the classes that will be held at the center.
The large, twisty water slides and sprinkling toys in the pool area weren’t open yet, but ice cream helped the anxious kids and their parents cool down.
“The big playground with the slide is my favorite part,” said J.D., 6. “The ice cream’s good too.”
The center took about 15 months to build, but has been in the works for at least 14 years, said Joan Byrne, director of recreation parks and arts for Largo. It replaces the area’s old recreation center, which was nothing more than “a metal building on a concrete slab,” she said.
“This is a place where families with kids of all ages can spend an afternoon and not spend a fortune,” Byrne said. “Lets face it; some of our theme parks have gotten to be $100 a day. This is really a place where you can come often to get fit, have fun, and maybe combine the two.”
The center features a two-story indoor play room, two gyms with a suspended indoor running track, fitness equipment, party rooms, a full-time daycare center that will open in September, athletic courts and a water park. Upstairs workout rooms feature interactive video games that encourage players to dance, cycle, and run around lighted tiles on an LED floor.
There’s even an indoor slide for adults who would rather not take the stairs from the second to the first floors.
Using money from the Penny for Pinellas sales tax, the new center cost about $17 million, Byrne said. Event rooms are already filling up through December, she said, and those rentals will go a long way toward covering the building’s expenses. The previous center raised about 70 percent of its operating costs by renting spaces for events, she said.
The center will help support local businesses with classes in everything from karate to recycling to origami. Meg Floyd, who runs the Kreig School of Historical Fencing, said the classes they’ve run throughout Largo for the past seven years typically attract small crowds. Now that the European martial arts class will be taught at the Highlands Recreation Complex, they’re expecting more exposure and interest.
The Highland Recreation Complex officially opens today from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. and summer camps start the following week. Admission to the center costs $3 for members of the recreation center and $4 for non-members. Membership costs $10 per year.