PORT CHARLOTTE — It was a quiet opening day for the North Charlotte Recreation Center Monday. By early afternoon, only a few people had showed up to take a look at the gleaming new $10.3 million center. Its location in the previously uninhabited Murdock Village means it is not a place most people pass by on a regular basis.

That’s changing rapidly. As the county opens its new center with an Olympic-sized pool soon to follow, private developers are ripping out 50 years worth of Florida vegetation between U.S. 41 and State Road 776. Eventually, developers will connect those two roads by extending O’Donnell Boulevard.

The first 453 acres of county-owned Murdock Village has new owners and a new name, West Port. The county has proposed renaming O’Donnell, North County Regional Park and the center in honor of the county’s upcoming centennial in 2021. So make that Centennial Park, Center and Boulevard.

The new recreation center is an indoor facility on O’Donnell, opposite the Park, which has outdoor ball fields. The pool is outdoors, behind the center.

The new center will offer programming for all ages, but anticipates more young families due to its location near North Port, said Recreation Supervisor Fabien Desrouleaux.

“I’m trying to do new and innovative programming here that may not be in other places,” Desrouleaux told the Sun.

One emphasis will be on adaptive programs, or programs adapted to different abilities, such as autism in children or physical limitations in the elderly.

Santa’s Candyland will be held at the new center for the first time on Dec. 6 and Dec. 7 from 5-8 p.m. Dec. 6 will focus on adaptive programs for children with autism and other disabilities.

Special recreation center programs will include “stroller fit” for parents and caretakers of young children with the children in the stroller.

The center has a 10,000-square-foot gym with two full basketball courts that can be switched over to four pickleball courts or two in-door soccer courts or two volleyball courts. There are two multi-purpose rooms for crafts and other activities. A fitness room is filled with equipment including treadmills and cycles.

The showcase Olympic pool is scheduled to be complete in April, but work is progressing quickly, so it might be sooner, Desrouleaux said.

Construction for the pool has come in at about $7.5 million, said Assistant County Administrator Travis Mortimer.

Finally, the south end of the building will house administrative offices for parks, recreation, libraries, historic services and environmental services. It will have shorter hours than the rec center.


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