Residents will benefit from rec center changes

info@islandpacket.comFebruary 13, 2014 

It's good news for residents that Hilton Head Island Town Council is likely poised to approve $6 million in renovations to the congested Island Recreation Center, which serves a population almost double the size it was built for nearly 26 years ago.

The improvements have been talked about since 2008, have been studied, have been tweaked and, this week, gained approval from the council's Public Facilities Committee. If the full Town Council signs off on the renovation plan as expected, the facility will get a new gym with an elevated running track, expanded parking, a playground, restrooms, field lighting and a replacement for the dome that encloses the center's outdoor pool during the winter. Existing facilities, including the gym, will remain.

Best yet, town leaders say the work can likely be done without a tax increase.

As for daily operations, the town would give $50,000 a year to help subsidize the center's expanded operations while Beaufort County is expected to contribute an additional $30,000 each year. Proceeds from new programs at the center and other income would cover the remaining $269,987 cost.

It's money well spent on a popular amenity used by a broad spectrum of the population. Currently, outdoor courts stay packed. And inside the center, basketball practice, an after-school program and a child care program operate simultaneously. Also, sports, programs and events are available year-round for seniors, adults and kids.

An expansion wouldn't just mean more space for the existing hustle and bustle. It would provide opportunities for additional residents.

"Unfortunately, some of the adults have been unable to play basketball and do things at the center because space limitations have resulted in focusing mainly on youth programs," said Frank Soule, the center's director. "Having two gyms means we can bring back some adult programming."

It's refreshing to see town leaders spend money on a popular facility that is a safe financial bet vs. directing public dollars to niche projects such as a sailing and rowing center off Squire Pope Road that many residents will likely never use.

We commend the town on investing in this tried-and-true facility. Town residents will enjoy the improvements for decades to come.

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