CHARLESTON, W.Va. - The Upper Kanawha Valley Enterprise Community is continuing to press on with its plan to construct a health and recreation center in the eastern end of the Kanawha Valley, and group officials hope a festival planned in August will help push the project closer to reality.
The UKVEC announced its plans to build the center last year, and so far, the nonprofit has secured a verbal agreement to lease property near Riverside High School and has developed a dream plan for the building.
"I think we're moving pretty fast," Building Manager Fred Joseph said.
A fund for the building hasn't yet been established, but the group is hosting the Upper Kanawha Valley Homecoming Festival from Aug. 14-17 to raise awareness of and interest for the project.
The dream plan for the recreation center calls for a 90,000-square-foot building that includes two pools, a weight room, locker rooms, a gymnasium, an indoor track, a climbing wall, offices for a youth center and a senior center and meeting space. Outdoor facilities would include basketball, volleyball and tennis courts; a playground; and long range plans for a small marina and picnic area along the Kanawha River. Health and recreation opportunities for both younger residents of the Upper Kanawha Valley and for senior citizens living in the area will be emphasized.
The project will be designed so that it can be built in stages, allowing the UKVEC to add facilities as funding becomes available. Eventually, the UKVEC would relinquish management of the facility to a public or private company or organization.
"What our hopes are is to begin the project and then step aside and let a management group take over," Joseph said. "We don't want to be rec center managers."
The need for the facility exists already, Joseph said. Currently, the roughly 42,000 residents in Kanawha County who live east of Charleston must travel much farther distances to recreation facilities than other county residents. Places to exercise are limited in the Upper Kanawha Valley, and longer roads, like U.S. 60 or W.Va. 61, are not suitable for running, walking or biking.
"There are enough folks. . .that could sustain the rec center," Joseph said.
Residents in nearby portions of Fayette, Nicholas and Boone counties could also make use of the center, thereby increasing the potential pool of users.