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Recreation center looks to spread its wings

December 22, 2005|by CANDICE BOSELY

MARTINSBURG, W.VA.

martinsburg@herald-mail.com

When the ribbon was cut and the doors first opened on the Berkeley 2000 Recreation Center, there was a problem.

"It was too small the day we opened it four years ago," said Steve Catlett, director of Martinsburg-Berkeley County Parks & Recreation.

To try to increase the space available for gymnastics, basketball, volleyball and other activities, Parks & Recreation has asked the Martinsburg City Council to forward $500,000, which would be repaid using hotel-motel tax revenue.

On Monday, members of the City Council's Budget and Finance Committee approved the request, but it still must be approved by City Council.

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Four of the seven City Council members who sit on the Budget and Finance Committee spoke favorably of the request.

The recreation center - which is behind the pool at Lambert Park off Woodbury Avenue - opened in March 2002. Acreage was left for additional wings to be built on the center's north, south and west sides. Its entrance is on the east side.

The 16,800-square-foot center now has a full-size basketball court that also is used for other sports as well as offices, restrooms and a concession area.

Depending on how much funding can be obtained from federal, state and local sources, as many as three wings will be added. Building three wings would add another 24,000 square feet of space and is expected to cost about $2 million, Catlett said.

The first priority is adding a wing strictly for use by those enrolled in the county's numerous gymnastics programs, available to those ranging in age from 18 months to adulthood.

A second wing would be used for basketball or volleyball activities, while a third wing could be used for indoor tennis activities. Holding indoor soccer games also is a possibility, Catlett said.

Members of Parks & Recreation's Board of Directors have approved hiring an architect, and Catlett said he hopes construction bids can be sought beginning next spring.

Counting spectators and participants, a minimum of 75,000 people a year use the center, with 35,000 spectators watching basketball league games in the winter, fall and summer, Catlett said.

The center also is used for special events, including a Tough Man competition.

Beginning Jan. 1, the city will increase the hotel-motel tax from 3 percent to 6 percent. The increase applies only to the handful of hotels or motels within the city's limits, not to those in the county.

Currently, the tax generates about $150,000 a year, City Manager Mark Baldwin has said, with the increase expected to boost that to $300,000.

By law, half of the revenue must be distributed to the Martinsburg-Berkeley County Convention and Visitors Bureau, while the rest has traditionally been distributed to Parks & Recreation.

City Council members previously decided to continue that tradition and will dedicate up to $150,000 a year to Parks & Recreation. That additional funding will be used to repay the $500,000 forwarded to Parks & Recreation for the additions to the recreation center.

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