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Long-awaited rec center opens its doors this week



The anticipation has been building for years.

But with mere days remaining before the Eastern Henrico Recreation Center (EHRC) opens to the public, excitement has reached fever pitch.

Just ask Torrance Archie.

As site manager for the new facility, Archie has been deluged with calls from residents eager to register for programs or book space – or simply asking when the center will open. Archie estimates that “20 to 30 people a day” drop by and try to walk into the center for a look around – despite the “closed” signs on the door.

“We can’t open fast enough,” Archie says.

The outdoor track, which has already opened for use, boasts a regular contingent of walkers – many of whom have switched over from using the Fairfield Middle School track. They are so thrilled with the new venue that workers painting the track’s lanes had trouble getting strollers to budge from their routine long enough for the paint lines
to be applied.

As Archie gave a tour on a recent morning, one walker explained why the rubberized track is so popular.

“The Fairfield track is gravel, and it isn’t level. This is more spongy,” said the woman, adding with a giddy laugh that the new track’s springiness sometimes tempts her to run instead of walk.

“And I’d better be careful because I’m no spring chicken!”

Among other outdoor features on the 24-acre site are a football field – already in use by the Glen Lea Lions -- a walking trail, multi-purpose field, concession building, large shelter and restroom buildings.

But it’s the 25,773 square feet of indoor space that is the focus of residents’ pent-up demand, says Archie.

At the drop of a curtain, the gymnasium can be divided into space for concurrent volleyball and basketball games. At least one recreational basketball league will move its games to the EHRC gymnasium from Fairfield Middle School; other groups planning to use the gym are church leagues, men’s leagues and the Henrico Police Athletic League (PAL).

Other amenities include a separate dance studio, classrooms, conference rooms and Henrico Recreation and Parks’ first fitness center. Starting at $120, annual fees to use the fitness center are within reach for individuals who might not otherwise be able to afford a club membership. Since the fitness center is only open during EHRC operating hours, however, it won’t compete with private fitness clubs.

At the opposite end of the building from the gym and activity spaces is a ballroom that seats 125, opens to a patio, and connects to a full-service kitchen. So it will be possible, Archie points out, for a group to hold a wedding reception or rehearsal dinner in the ballroom at the same time that a noisy basketball game is underway downstairs – and guests will never be the wiser.

“There’s a lot of opportunity and possibility out here. It’s going to be a busy place,” says Archie of the new building, which boasts numerous green features and has been registered, designed, and specified to comply with the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating system. “The community is so excited to have
this, and they feel part of it from the ground up.

“It’s been a long time coming . . . they feel ownership and want to take care of it.”

Archie hopes and expects that the new facility will not only serve as a draw for current participants in Dorey Park, Confederate Hills, Armour House and Hidden Creek programs, but will also bring out nearby residents who have never before participated in Recreation and Parks activities.

“We’re hoping to bring more awareness and get [eastern Henrico residents] to come out more,” Archie says. “We’re hoping we hit a niche . . . and get a whole new contingent.”

Fairfield Supervisor Frank Thornton adds that another contingent he hopes to see benefit from the center is the youth.

Recalling the letter he received a decade ago from a 12-year-old youngster complaining there was "no place for kids to play," he says he could not be more pleased to see a recreation center come to fruition at last. As a child growing up in Richmond, says Thornton, he enjoyed patronizing a boys club, and has been a firm believer in PAL programs and athletic activities ever since.

"It taught me," says Thornton, "that structured recreation can cement a good foundation in character."

The public will be able to get a peek at the new center Oct. 8, when the Henrico County Division of Recreation and Parks will host a “pep rally” style grand opening, ribbon-cutting and dedication ceremony. The schedule of events includes tours, fitness demonstrations, children’s activities, and the chance to participate in games of volleyball, basketball and pickleball. Other highlights include visits with local school mascots and demonstrations by the VCU
Women’s Ultimate Frisbee team, Richmond Lions Rugby team, and the Richmond Strikers.

Registration for programs and reservations for space, however, will not begin until the EHRC officially opens two days later on Oct. 10.

Judging from the volume of calls and inquiries he has fielded regarding sign-ups, Archie says he expects to find a lengthy line of people waiting when the doors open at 8 a.m. Monday. So many callers have asked him eagerly, “When should I get there -- eight o’clock?” that he now recites a stock answer.

“Please don’t get there at eight,” Archie tells callers. “You’ll be the last person there.”

* * *
The EHRC grand opening will be held Saturday, Oct. 8, from 1 - 4 p.m. at the recreation center on Laburnum Road. A ribbon cutting and dedication ceremony will be held in the gym at 2 p.m. Music will be provided by DJ Manny Green and the Highland Springs High School drumline, and cheers will be performed by the Elko Middle School cheerleaders. Henrico Fire will provide a water wagon, Kids Safety House, rapelling demonstrations, and more. Football fans can cheer on the Glen Lea Lions, and Henrico County will provide information on Recreation and Parks’ programs as well as Henrico’s 400th anniversary.

For details about renting space or registering for programs at EHRC, call 225-2056 or visit http://www.henricorecandparks.com
Community

Author, child abuse survivor to speak at Henrico event

To help celebrate twenty years of service to advocating for abused and neglected children in Henrico County, Henrico Court Appointed Special Advocates, Inc. (CASA) will host an evening with bestselling author K.L. Randis on Tuesday, Aug. 26, from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at Belmont Recreation Center in Lakeside.

Randis is best known for her bestselling novel, Spilled Milk, which tells her painful – but ultimately triumphant – personal story of abuse and of child abuse prevention. The book is her first novel.

The event is free to the public, but seating is limited Reservations may be made by e-mailing .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Belmon Recreation Center is located at 1600 Hilliard Road. > Read more.

Philippines ambassador to the US visits Filipino Festival in Henrico


The Ambassador of the Philippines to the United States Jose L. Cuisia, Jr. attended the Ninth Annual Filipino Festival at Our Lady of Lourdes Church earlier this month. Cuisia (pictured above with festival performers) was welcomed by County Manager John Vithoulkas and Brookland District Supervisor Dick Glover (below) at the church, which is located in Lakeside.

While enjoying some of the cultural performances at the festival, the ambassador and his wife had a private lunch with Vithoulkas, Glover, Eldon Burton (an outreach representative from U.S. Senator Mark R. Warner’s Office) and Father James Begley, the pastor of OLL. > Read more.

Dragon boats invade the James

Hundreds of spectators filled the banks of the James River to watch two dozen teams of competitors in the Walgreen’s Richmond International Dragon Boat Festival at Rocketts Landing Aug. 2. The event included a number of races, as well as several cultural performances. The sport is billed as the fastest growing water sport in the world.(Photo by Roger Walk for the Henrico Citizen) > Read more.

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Entertainment

‘Planes’ sequel crashes

‘Fire and Rescue’ proves too predictable, boring

Planes: Fire and Rescue opens with a dedication to the hero firefighters of the world. It’s an admirable notion, and it makes sense, given that this is a film about planes that fight fires.

But here it might be a little out of place, as Planes: Fire and Rescue has a few things on its mind besides supporting the men and women who routinely throw themselves into burning buildings.

Like money. Lots and lots of money – into the 11-figures-and-counting range. In case you weren’t aware, 2006’s Cars was the biggest moneymaker Disney had in decades – not because of how much green the film printed at the box office, but because a combination of toys, games and snack foods stamped with the Cars seal of approval routinely pulls in tens of billions of dollars per year. > Read more.

Weekend Top 10


This weekend in Henrico, you can learn about fall herbs or mad science. Enjoy some laughs from West End Comedy or Three-Penny Theatre’s production of “The Rivah Home Companion.” For music lovers, Jennifer Nettles is in concert tonight and the fifth annual GWAR-B-Q takes place tomorrow at Hadad’s Lake. For all our top picks this weekend, click here! > Read more.

Restaurant watch

Find out how your favorite dining establishments fared during their most recent inspections by the Virginia Department of Health. > Read more.

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