North Richland Hills' new recreation center is ready for swimmers, climbers and runners

NORTH RICHLAND HILLS -- When plans for the NRH Centre were revealed, the parks board chairwoman explained why it had to be 86,000 square feet.

"We don't want to build anything that is just adequate," Marty Kusmierski said in 2010.

After a recent tour of the $24.9 million recreation center, which opens Saturday, Kusmierski said, "We exceeded our goal. It's awesome."

Awesome as in a 9,155-square-foot aquatics center that features a lap pool, a resistance channel, a swim/play area, a tube slide that winds outside the building and a 9-foot climbing wall from which swimmers can jump into the pool.

How about a 9,500-square-foot Grand Hall with a rooftop terrace and an outdoor plaza that accommodates 1,000 people?

There's also an 8,600-square-foot senior center that will replace two much smaller facilities.

And a fitness area with more than 6,500 square feet of state-of-the-art equipment.

Did we mention the double gymnasium, cardio loft, more than 3,000 square feet of fitness studios and what is billed as the state's longest indoor suspended walking/running track?

"The facility is amazing," said Amber Kahle, a registered nurse at nearby Birdville High School and one of the first people to buy a family membership. "As a healthcare professional, I know it's important to get our families moving and active. And we're playing, and playing is good."

Parks and Recreation Director Vickie Loftice expects about 2,000 people at the grand opening.

Memberships and fees

Memberships grant access to all self-directed activities during regular hours. Sessions with personal trainers, special services and classes cost extra.

Individual annual memberships for residents are $150 for youths, $230 for seniors, $290 for adults and $545 for families. Monthly memberships are also available, and costs are higher for nonresidents.

A daily pass is $7 for residents and $10 for nonresidents.

Loftice said her staff studied fees at similar facilities.

At the Burleson Recreation Center -- a 10,000-square-foot facility with indoor and outdoor pools and a walking track above a double gymnasium -- annual memberships are $210 for youths, $252 for seniors, $294 for adults and $454 for families.

At the 87,940-square-foot Keller Pointe, annual memberships are $209 for youths, $244 for seniors, $354 for adults and $557 for families.

The North Richland Hills City Council wanted user fees and memberships to cover 75 percent of the NRH Centre's operational costs, estimated at $2.6 million a year.

1,205 and counting

North Richland Hills' current recreation facility -- a former church building at Northeast Loop 820 and Rufe Snow Drive that has been in use since 1987 -- has almost 1,800 memberships.

As of last week, the NRH Centre had 1,205 annual memberships, Kusmierski said, adding that she and her husband, Ted, are among them.

"I'm No. 5 of the 1,205," she said.

The NRH Centre is "another beautiful rose in the bouquet of wonderful things that have happened in North Richland Hills," Kusmierski said. "It was one of [ Money magazine's] 100 best cities to live in a while back, and I think this will put us back on that list."

The facility is funded by the same tax increment financing district as the $10.2 million library next door, city spokeswoman Mary Peters said.

"Both projects were included as part of the TIF plan approved in 1999," she said.

The city had planned to build the recreation center within five years of the tax district's approval, but officials put the project on hold because of the district's lagging performance.

Taxable values within the district have grown by nearly $210 million since 1999, Peters said.

"This produces a total of $2,665,685 [in] property taxes annually from NRH, Tarrant County, Tarrant County Hospital District and Tarrant County College District, which is adequate to pay the debt service for the library and recreation center," Peters said.

This report includes material from the Star-Telegram archives.

Terry Evans, 817-390-7620

Twitter: @fwstevans