Southwest Recreation Center

$2 million renovation earns praise at Largo's Southwest Recreation Center

Ernie Whalen keeps watch as his grandson, Eric Whalen, 3, of Largo, runs on the treadmill in the fitness area of Largo’s Southwest Recreation Complex, which had its grand reopening Saturday.

MELISSA LYTTLE | Times

Ernie Whalen keeps watch as his grandson, Eric Whalen, 3, of Largo, runs on the treadmill in the fitness area of Largo’s Southwest Recreation Complex, which had its grand reopening Saturday.

To some, a $2 million makeover may seem odd in light of these tough financial times.

However, at Saturday's open house at Largo's Southwest Recreation Complex, which just received the expensive facelift, the same words were heard over and over.

"It's worth the money,'' said Bradley Richards, 48. "I bet you're going to see a spike in real estate sales between here and Walsingham Road, too. This place is beautiful. It's good for the whole city.''

"It wasn't cheap, and I know there's lots of fellows in here with stinky shoes, but this place is a breath of fresh air,'' said Georgia Howard, 72, as her grandson marched on the treadmill.

And for David Showalter, 73, who has been involved with Largo recreation programs since 1999, the makeover just makes sense.

"I tell you this: I was sick and tired of getting inside the tiny exercise room that used to be at the old entrance," he said. "Now you're talking real deal.''

The project, funded through the Penny for Pinellas program, began at the end of the summer camp season last August. After the kids bid farewell to Jennifer McMahon, Southwest Recreation manager, her staff packed up countless boxes. The majority of activity was shifted to Play Express at Barclay Square.

The city knocked down the four aging racquetball courts. In their place, four classrooms have been built.

Along with that, a fitness center, double the size of the old one, is at the front of the facility. Meanwhile, the basketball court maintains its place in the center of the interior.

After getting her face painted by a member of Uptown Clowns who helped with Saturday's festivities, Emily Roldan, 9, darted from the basketball courts to check out the Nautilus equipment.

She also dragged her mother into Classroom A, where they participated in a Jazzercize demonstration.

"I've been at Southwest many times with my daughter," joked Noraima Roldan. "But now, this doesn't feel like a rec center, it's a country club.''

To learn more

To participate in most recreation programs through the city of Largo, including the use of facilities at Southwest Recreation Complex, 13120 Vonn Road, a membership card is required.

Cost: Residents, $5 for one year; nonresidents, $30 for six months, $49 for one year and $98 for two years.

To register: Go to any city recreation site. Proof of residency, along with a picture identification, is required.

For information: Visit www.largo.com or call (727) 518-3125 or (727) 518-3016

By the numbers

1,350 Number of people who attended Saturday's open house at Southwest Recreation Complex.

95 Number of Largo recreation memberships purchased during the open house.

1985 Year the original Southwest complex opened.

240 Average number of summer campers who will use Southwest complex this summer.

$2 million renovation earns praise at Largo's Southwest Recreation Center 06/02/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, June 2, 2009 7:13pm]

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