PORT CHARLOTTE — The all-new North Charlotte Recreation Center sits just 2.5 miles from the North Port line.

Recreation Supervisor Fabien Desrouleaux expects the 30,000-square-foot facility to attract younger families from neighborhoods in north Port Charlotte and North Port.

Monday was a quiet opening day with staff on hand to give tours of the 10,000-square-foot gym, two multi-purpose rooms and a fitness center.

Using a newer style of architecture, the building is light and airy with high-placed windows illuminating the courts, Assistant County Administrator Travis Mortimer told the Sun. The cost for design and construction was $10.3 million, using local sales tax dollars.

Another $7.5 million will go to finish the Olympic-sized pool outside, which county commissioners hope will attract college-level competitions from around the country. It’s completion date is set in April, but may come sooner, Desrouleaux said.

The center is located off O’Donnell Boulevard inside the previously uninhabited Murdock Village. The center is not visible from U.S. 41, so look for the small sign for the North Charlotte Regional Park.

The jungle look of this region is changing rapidly. 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. In honor of the county’s upcoming centennial in 2021, the county has proposed renaming O’Donnell, North County Regional Park and the center. So make that Centennial Park, Center and Boulevard.

The new center will offer programming for all ages, Desrouleaux said.

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

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 p.m. to 8 p.m. Dec. 6, it 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.

A Sensory Time program will cater to children with motor disabilities, helping them to express themselves creatively, build confidence and aid in developing fine and gross motor skills.

Rates are no different for Charlotte County vs. North Port residents, Desrouleaux said. The county charges low per use rates for different activities, he said. It is reviewing whether to add annual membership options, he said.

The gym is big enough to house two full basketball courts that can be switched over to four pickleball courts or two indoor soccer or two volleyball courts. The multi-purpose rooms can be used for crafts and other activities. A fitness room is filled with equipment including treadmills and cycles.

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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