Making It Mecca For Recreation

What Ohio County officials have in mind for The Highlands is impressive solely by its size. They plan to erect a 180,000 square-foot indoor sports and recreation building at the retail center.

That’s big enough to swallow up three football fields, with room to spare. But big and promising as the idea sounds, the potential is even greater.

Hey, if you’re going to shoot for the moon, go all the way.

Earlier this month, the county Development Authority approved a $4.2 million bid for the initial phase of the project, to be constructed on a 10-acre site behind the Marquee Cinema building. Commissioner Randy Wharton, who also is president of the authority, said the project should be completed in a little more than seven months.

Plans are for the main building to include basketball courts, indoor soccer fields, a children’s play area and other facilities. Outdoor playing fields also are on the agenda.

That will be nice for many local athletes and families, especially during the winter months. Soccer, in particular, has grown enormously in popularity during the past several years.

Wharton is correct that, in addition to being a wonderful recreation option for local residents, the complex should bring out-of-town visitors to The Highlands.

One should never bite off more than one can chew, of course. And sticking with ideas of provable value, such as indoor soccer and basketball courts, is smart at first.

Still, county officials should begin thinking even more creatively.

Other types of recreation facilities such as water sports ranging from a pool to a small canoe-kayak course, could make the center even more appealing. Want to try out that new canoe or kayak you just bought at Cabela’s? No need to drive for hours to find a little whitewater. Just go over to the county’s mini-rough water course.

Also appealing could an indoor golf driving range, climbing walls, an indoor mountain biking course, a roller skating rink, an indoor batting cage or a trampoline park. Bowling, anyone?

Or, how about one of those free fall simulators? They use giant, well-shielded fans to blow air up wide vertical tubes. People jump in at the top, then are suspended in the air by the blast from the fan, something like parachuting.

The possibilities are endless. So are the potential pitfalls, of course. Easy for me to dream, but these things cost money, and the development authority needs to be prudent in its spending.

Still, once the first phase of the project is complete, making it an attraction for even more types of recreation and sports enthusiasts ought to be considered.

The Highlands already is a major regional retail center. Plans for the mega-building and associated sports fields will make it a recreation destination, too.

So why not go outside that box we talk about so often and install recreational attractions that can’t be found elsewhere in our area?

Heck, not to bring up a sore subject, but why not a full-scale water park?

Myer can be reached at: mmyer@theintelligencer.net.

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