For the past few weeks, while at work, Anthony Dandridge sometimes looks out the glass door and sees the faces of 12-year-olds peering inside like it’s the secret of Christmas.
Well, Christmas came early this year. It’s ready. The Orange leisure center is open for play on Wednesday after the compulsory inauguration ceremony at 5.30 p.m.
A dress code, or more accurately a shoe code, is required at all times, even during the inaugural tour. Absolutely no hard-soled shoes, cleats or heels will be permitted. Rubber soles, like tennis shoes only. Those special floors that have taken so long to wait will be as protected as old coaches protected a newly waxed basketball court.
The recreation center has room for volleyball and basketball courts. Dandridge, who has been hired by the city as a full-time director of recreation, said at that point those will be the only sports available. People, including children, will be able to come and play, play brain games or practice their skills. The leisure center will have all the necessary equipment.
He said the first hours of operation will be Monday through Thursday from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. It will be open Fridays from 4-6 p.m. to accommodate the popularity of high school football.
The times will change in January, but these times will depend on the public.
“Once we get everyone in and see what people want, we’ll know” what programs to have, said James Ingram, the city’s acting director of public works, which oversees the parks and recreation department. .
The future may include aerobics or other exercise classes, or times of day to engage seniors in activities. The recreation center does not have meeting rooms, but groups will be able to reserve a court in the future for a fee.
Dandridge said the center will likely start accepting bookings for groups like youth sports teams. Ingram said the city is currently working on a computer program to enable online reservations.
At this time, group fees and booking fees have not been fixed. The leisure center is free for everyone living within the city limits of Orange. Those who live outside the city limits will be charged a $5 per day fee. Taxpayer money from the city paid for the new center and pays for recreation employees and center operations.
The city paid the recreation center with $8 million in bond certificates, a type of loan bond that can be issued without an election. Orange city council approved the bonds in 2018 after the repayment of a previous similar 20-year loan. The then city manager said the new loan repayments could be paid without a tax increase because the old loan had been paid off.
The council allocated more than half of this money for street repairs and improvements. Other projects include the Riverside Pavilion off Simmons Drive.
The new leisure center is on the site of the former Orange Natatorium, which was demolished to make way for the new building. The city council agreed that the Olympic-size swimming pool inside the natatorium needed too much repair to fix.
Prior to the natatorium, the site was where a USO hall was built at the start of World War II and the live oak trees that were planted 80 years ago for the USO now surround the recreation center with l ‘shadow.