In attendance were Cherokee Recreation and Parks Agency director Bryan Reynolds, Kennesaw State University assistant athletic director for major gifts George Olney, Chattahoochee Technical College dean of students for athletics Ron Dulaney and Reinhardt University athletic director Bill Popp. They each spoke on how their organizations impact businesses in Cherokee County, and how they could partner together to benefit the region as a whole.
Reynolds, who estimated that the county’s parks had seen more than 2.5 million visitors last year, expects more people to enjoy what that the county has to offer in the year to come. Among the highlights Reynolds mentioned were the construction of the Cherokee County Aquatic Center, the expansion of the Blankets Creek bike trails and the addition of baseball fields in Canton and the Etowah River Park.
The $20 million aquatic center, which is scheduled to open in May, will serve as the home for several swim clubs, including the Stingrays and Marietta Marlins, as well as each of the county’s six high schools. Reynolds also expects a swim meet to be held in the competitive pool every weekend, and with seating for 700, he also expects quite a crowd.
Reynolds said the biggest way that the CRPA impacts the community is through every-day activities.
“You name it, we play it here in Cherokee County,” he said.
The college representatives in attendance Friday said the CRPA contributes to the success of creating a love for athletics in children — many of whom get their start in the community organization.
“Interest in athletics comes from toddlers on up,” Olney said. “We build right on what (Reynolds) does over at the recreation department.”
Kennesaw State, which is located just a few miles south of the Cherokee County line, has seen its student body double over the past 12 years. More than 3,000 students from Cherokee County attend the school, including eight current athletes and three more who will enroll in the fall.
When the university adds football for the 2015 season, Olney expects that number to grow.
Dulaney said Chattahoochee Tech serves local athletes by giving them an opportunity to hone their skills in the performance arena and their grades in the classroom before moving on to four-year institutions. He said that while the junior college does not have athletic facilities of its own, that hasn’t stopped its athletic programs — and more than 170 student-athletes — from excelling.
Former Sequoyah High School standout Sean Tate recently finished his two years of eligibility with the Golden Eagles and is expected to move on to a four-year college to finish his career.
“We are helping athletes move on to four-year schools,” Dulaney said. “In the past year, three women’s basketball players, nine men’s basketball players and four track athletes have gone on to continue their educations and athletic careers at other institutions.”
Cross country, track and field and basketball are currently the only programs offered by Chattahoochee Tech as varsity programs. As demand grows, however, Dulaney expects that to change.
Reinhardt, the only university based in Cherokee County, is certainly leaving an imprint on the area’s athletic landscape. With 17 sports and 425 student-athletes, the high schools in the area are major source of talent.
The Eagles’ football program, which will play its inaugural season in the fall, is having the most visible impact. There are a dozen players from Cherokee County high schools on the football roster at Reinhardt.
When considering all of the sports at Reinhardt, more than 50 of the student-athletes, as well as two coaches, hail from Cherokee County.
The officials at Friday’s meeting said that sponsorship opportunities are available to local businesses, while Reynolds spoke on the importance of volunteers.
“We do our best to partner with the community,” said Popp, who referenced the Reinhardt athletic department’s relationship with local physicians. “We all benefit when we all work together.”