HOLLY SPRINGS — The more than 60 residents and officials who came to witness the ribbon-cutting for the Cherokee County Aquatic Center on Thursday got an added treat when three county officials jumped in the pool to compete in the ceremonial first lap.
Thursday’s ribbon-cutting ceremony marks the opening of the center off Sixes Road in Holly Springs, but residents will be welcomed officially at a free open house Saturday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., said Cherokee County Chamber of Commerce President Pam Carnes, who played host to the event.
Carnes addressed those in attendance Thursday and recalled the county’s process of getting the center ready for the public, which began in 2012 with the start of construction.
“It doesn’t seem like that many months ago that we were … at the ground-breaking,” she said. “And now here we are ready to go inside.”
Cherokee’s new aquatic center, which cost the county $16 million, was paid for out of the voter-approved $90 million parks bond passed in 2008.
The Board of Commissioners voted unanimously in late 2011 to move forward with the project.
But Commission Chairman Buzz Ahrens said, to his knowledge, the idea for the project dates back about 12 years.
He said he’s glad to see it complete.
“(I’m) delighted that this is here,” Ahrens said. “I have told everybody I’ve run into in the past 10 days about Saturday’s open house.”
State Rep. Calvin Hill (R-Canton) also came out for the event.
He told the crowd that the new recreation hub will be a great benefit to Cherokee County.
“The citizens of Cherokee County stepped up and voted to tax themselves to build facilities like this,” Hill said of voters approving the parks bond. “One of the reasons was to improve the quality of life for the people that are living here, but secondarily, it helps people like me as we go around the state and around the country trying to attract businesses and people to come and live here in Cherokee County.”
Bryan Reynolds, Cherokee Recreation and Parks director, was one of those at the forefront of the project, but he used his time speaking to profusely thank others in the county who helped in the process of seeing the aquatic center become a reality.
“We couldn’t be here today if it weren’t for the assistance of, probably, nearly every county department,” he said.
After hearing the speakers and seeing Ahrens cut the ribbon, attendees were directed inside the 48,000-square-foot facility to witness the ceremonial first lap in the center’s 50-meter competition pool.
Three county officials squared off in the one-lap race: Ahrens, Reynolds and Post 1 Commissioner Harry Johnston.
Each of the men showed good form as they raised their arms to a point and plunged forward into the water.
Johnston took an early lead, thrashing through the pool dipping his head under the water and coming back up for air every few seconds.
Ahrens and Reynolds followed just behind in the first stretch, but when Johnston hit the pool’s center wall and shot back off toward the end of the race, his lead widened.
Less than a minute later, he reached the finish line with Reynolds trailing just behind and Ahrens still further back.
Johnston grabbed onto the diving board and pulled himself out of the water.
He lifted a fist and screamed, “Gold medal!”
The aquatics complex includes — in addition to the indoor 50-meter competition pool — an indoor 25-yard recreation pool and an outdoor leisure pool with water playground, two water slides, beach entry, pavilions and concessions.
For information and fees, visit crpa.net.