Homestead Recreation Center will be a star in the community, predicts John Rohan, director of The Villages Recreation and Parks. The newest facility in the village of Citrus Grove officially opened on Friday and received rave reviews, despite the weather not cooperating with any of the evening’s scheduled events. Hundreds of residents toured the facility and enjoyed the boardwalk nature trail, dog park, resort-style family pool, and favorites such as pickleball, tennis, bocce, and shuffleboard. One of the center’s expected major draws, astronomy blocks with electricity for telescopes, could not be used during an evening show due to cloud cover. However, members of The Villages Astronomy Club were on hand to show off various telescopes and educate residents about their club.
Mark Graybill, club president, said members look forward to using the facility on clear evenings.
“We are very excited about the new facility,” he said. “It’s a great setup and it will be an excellent resource for astronomers.”
Graybill, of the Village of Liberty Park, said the club’s more than 300 members appreciate the efforts of the recreation department staff and the developer to include the astronomy park in plans for the center.
“We’ve been working with the Recreation and Parks Department to get a site like this one and it’s worked out really well,” he said. “We’re looking forward to hosting some star parties and enjoying some dark sky nights.”
The astronomy blocks represent the great partnerships that exist in the community, Rohan said.
“It’s another example of how a vision can become a reality with the great collaborations between the developer, the residents and the Recreation and Parks department,” he said. “Astronomy club members had requested a stargazing location and we were delighted to be able to partner with them on this facility, as we have been able to do with so many other programs over the years. ”
The astronomy blocks can be reserved for nighttime viewing by calling the recreation center at 352-674-1971.
Chris Iannello, recreation supervisor at the center, was delighted to finally show off the new premises.
“It’s always exciting to open another great leisure center,” he said. “The residents have been waiting for this. With all the amenities we have here, I think they will be appreciated.”
The interior of the leisure center has a farm theme. Indoor amenities include a game room with billiards, darts, and shuffleboard, a card room, a large meeting room, and a kitchen. Patti Davis, of the village of Bradford, said she and her husband Rich had been monitoring the center’s progress for months. They were particularly interested in the astronomy park, which also includes three corn throwing lanes, three horseshoe pits, and a picnic pavilion.
“We ride this way every day with our bikes, so we’ve been tracking the progress,” she said. “We were always curious what they were doing here. I am always impressed with how they try to bring in new ideas with each new center.”
Kathy Katerman and her dog Buddy are thrilled to have a dog park closer to their new home in the village of Citrus Grove.
“We’ve been here a month now and we went to the other dog parks,” she said. “I made a map where they all are and I tried to hit them all. But we can just cycle here.”
Katerman said Buddy, a cross-breed rescue team, gives the new park “two thumbs up.”
“He runs like crazy and makes new friends in every park,” she said. “I am very happy with how The Villages designs everything. It’s all very impressive.”
Steve and Marcia Lawrence moved into their home in the village of St. Catherine just after Christmas. They enjoyed strolling the boardwalk nature trail through the wetlands adjacent to downtown.
“It’s a very nice, relaxing walk,” Marcia said. “It’s a short walk, but the scenery is beautiful.” Rohan is confident that Homestead will become a popular location.
“It’s going to blow people away,” he said. “The concept is unique with of course the astronomy park area, nature trail walking trail then you add a dog park and all the courts with so many favorite activities. Then you go in and you have the games room area with billiards, darts and table shuffleboard, you have the kitchen, meeting room and card room. There are endless programming options for indoor and outdoor residents. It’s really going to be a fan favorite.”