As temperatures continue to fall across most of the country, people are turning to their indoor park and rec facilities to stay active and find relief from cabin fever. In Ohio, the Westerville Community Center serves as the main hub for patrons looking for fun, indoor activities when the weather is undesirable. “The Westerville Community Center blends all the traditional services and programs of a park and recreation department with many regional-specific favorites and local lifestyle pursuits,” says Randy Auler, Westerville’s Director of Parks and Recreation. “At 96,000 square feet, there’s space for an indoor water park, track, gymnasium, fitness room, indoor climbing wall, locker rooms, program rooms, indoor playground, and child-care and public meeting areas. Offering approximately 2,000 programs a quarter, many in these spaces, the center is widely used by its patrons.”
According to Auler, weather is a big predictor for how busy the center gets, with colder months traditionally contributing to more “cabin fever reliever”-inspired programming. Of all of the amenities, the community center’s most popular may be the indoor playground, nicknamed the “Tree Top,” which serves as one of the welcoming attractions to the more than 800,000 visitors to the center each year. “With unpredictable weather in Central Ohio, this playground was designed to bring the best features of an outdoor park playground inside for a year-round climate-controlled environment for families to enjoy,” says Auler. “Tree Top is a multilevel playground featuring multiple ladder-style climbing elements, 12 activity panels, a fireman-style pole, curly slide and two climbing walls. Rubber flooring serves the dual purpose of softening landings as kids play and enhancing safety as they jump and tumble.” Moreover, for the parents and other adults, there is a seating lounge next to the playground for centralized viewing not only of the playground, but also of the indoor pool and adjacent 29-foot climbing wall. With more than 100 kids using the Tree Top playground daily, this centerpiece feature of Westerville Community Center stays busy year-round.
— Catrina Belt, Editorial Intern for Parks & Recreation magazine