Before You Go - July 2010
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Before You Go…

Reaching Your Peak
Grand Prairie Parks and Recreation Opens 50 and Older Club

By Deborah L. Vence

Nestled at the highest point in Central Park in Grand Prairie, Texas, is a brand new, $23 million recreation facility—just for people ages 50 and older.

Nicknamed "The Summit"—to symbolize reaching your peak or optimum point in life—the new 60,000-square-foot facility features a host of amenities, including a 100-seat movie theater, an indoor swimming pool and rehab area, a gym, café, public greenhouse and garden space, Wii room, meeting rooms, ballrooms, computer area, game room and outdoor kitchen.

"We were looking for a powerful name, [something that would represent] the peak optimum point of life. The [facility] is in our brand new Central Park [a 170-acre park development], the highest point at which is Summit Rock," said Rick Herold, director of the Grand Prairie Parks and Recreation Department.

The Summit joins the area's existing Grand Prairie Senior Citizens Center, which is 9,000 square feet and only has two large rooms and a classroom, two pool tables and three treadmills, as well as a small kitchen for staff to prepare meals.

"Our council was instrumental in wanting to provide better activities. And then we all got educated about the baby boomer market," Herold said.

"We looked at numerous facilities, and [Grand Prairie] Mayor Charles England demanded a more 'transcending' facility and, thus, we looked at private facilities [for ideas]. So, we looked at Del Webb developments and Robson Ranch in Denton, Texas (another high-end retirement community). Our building is more reflective of the high-end facilities," he explained, adding that the new facility boasts something to the likes of a country club.

"If you can imagine the best country club, that's the finish out of this facility," Herold said.

"We've added some outdoor areas, outdoor game courts. We will be selling beer and wine. There's a restaurant, a café. On the fitness side, it's absolutely incredible. There's a gym. There's one-tenth of a mile walking trail and a 35-person spa. It's wonderful inside and outside," he said. "We wanted a building that would be timeless. We studied baby boomer research and developed a facility that will be 'the place' for 40 years."

Research was an important step in finding out prospective members' desires, needs and wants. The Grand Prairie Parks and Recreation Department conducted qualitative research via focus group sessions and invited participants ages 50 and older to offer their ideas about what types of amenities they were interested in.

As a result, Grand Prairie created a recreation center that features a group exercise room, indoor walking track, locker rooms with saunas, and an outdoor covered patio with a grill and fireplace overlooking a lake, which, Herold said, currently is unnamed. The recreation department also will be adding a $400,000 art piece—a stainless steel tree adorned with Mother of Pearl leaves—to the lake area.

Such features, he said, give the new baby boomer club the "wow" factor.

"Our spa and pool is an infinity edge. Our lobby includes over-stuffed leather furniture. Our sports and news ticker offers late-breaking information," he said. "Our locker rooms are right out of the finest country club in America. We have 'wows' everywhere. The Summit sits on a series of five lakes with a 20-foot boardwalk around much of the main lake area. Members are picked up in a golf cart, so parking is never an issue."

In addition, The Summit, which opened May 24, has a members' store that was created for club members to show off their talents. The store sells any products that members make, build or grow.

"They can sell it in the store and keep 100 percent of the money. There is a wide array of things that will be sold, such as pottery, plants and jewelry. We also have a greenhouse and a public garden. So, they literally could grow vegetables and plants and take some home," Herold said.

To date, the club, open to both residents and nonresidents, has more than 1,800 new memberships, and possibly will exceed 4,000 at the end of the department's fiscal year in September. However, the parks and recreation department is focused on garnering more resident memberships vs. nonresident for the time being.

"We are limiting nonresident [memberships] to 100 [right now]," Herold said.

Besides the vast amenities offered, the new baby boomer facility also offers volunteer opportunities from working at the front desk to greeting members, as well as food service, giving facility tours, picking up members in golf carts and teaching members new skills and trades.

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