City of Batesville receives the Wellness Trendsetter Award from ARPA for Batesville Community Center and Aquatics Park

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In 2012, Batesville made the decision to transition into the future with a state-of-the-art facility set to improve quality of life for locals and draw others from around Arkansas. Citizens came together and voted to construct a $22 million Community Center and Aquatics Park. Mayor Rick Elumbaugh credited residents for stepping up in support of the initiative and for their unwavering determination to make Batesville the most progressive and innovative city in the state. The award-winning structure opened to enthusiastic crowds in the summer of 2017 and has received hundreds of thousands of visits since.

The modern, 105,000 square foot Community Center and Aquatics Park designed by ETC Engineers and Architects was recognized by the Arkansas Recreation and Parks Association as “Facility of the Year.” Arkansas Business awarded the area four Trendsetter City Awards, including the Wellness Award for the expansive new community center and other notable projects, such as bike paths and excellent outdoor activities. With a 29,000 square foot gym, running track, workout center, indoor pools, an outdoor aquatic park and much more, the Center aims to effectively improve the health and lives of residents throughout Independence County.

The community center welcomes guests with open, contemporary architecture, large windows, and lounge areas throughout with multi-level views of the stunning mountains surrounding the area. Upon entering, visitors find a spacious fitness room with a special floor and sound system to accommodate a range of group classes covering a variety of styles and challenge levels, such as yoga, Pilates, tai chi, Zumba, and other aerobics. Fitness needs are amply met by the large workout center, which includes treadmills, elliptical, stationary bikes, and weight-lifting equipment with personalized access to internet, television, and virtual reality trails. The center’s upper level offers various meeting rooms outfitted with kitchens and the latest technology to host seminars and events.

Large-scale events are available to the public in the community center’s enormous gym, which can accommodate three high-school regulation basketball courts or six regular-sized volleyball courts, along with an adjacent commercial kitchen. Beyond tournaments, the gym frequently hosts other kinds of events, from banquets to trade shows to concerts seating up to 3,000 attendees. This feature has made a positive impact on the city’s economy and contributed to the region’s recent increase in annual tourism. This section of the facility also features a running track and racquetball courts. Just outside the center are tennis courts as well.

Many come for a favorite segment of the new center—the Aquatics Park. Locals can purchase monthly memberships, but anyone can enjoy the facility for a $5 day pass. This includes a huge central pool with a zip line and towering water slides, a diving area, a kids’ splash zone and aquatic playground, an adult pool, and a lazy river. Those who want to soak in the sun or bask in the shade will find an abundance of seating options. The community center also offers an indoor pool area with swim lanes, perfect for competitions or avid swimmers, and a therapeutic pool.

With the new addition, the community has begun to achieve greater goals in fitness. Day and night, people come to exercise, socialize, play, and learn. The center aims to include all sectors of society. For example, the large capacity allows swim classes for youth to occur while seniors engage in water aerobics nearby. In this way, Batesville is improving multiple areas of general wellness while drawing in individuals and organizations from further away. Few communities of similar size offer so much in a public space.

Ginger Smith joined OGTC in 2014 as a volunteer, and has lived in this area since 1972 when she moved to be near her parents, the late Doss and Vivian Burgess. Her late father was Independence County Appraiser and any time family, whether kids or grand kids, came to visit for even a short time, he would take them to A.D. Hill’s grocery store, and get them a soda pop and candy bar, see the talking bird there, and end up “checking out the great White River.” All the kids and grands have played on the banks there, picnicked, and played on the old train. Ginger is adamant, since she moved to Batesville, there is just no other place to raise a family. Her love for the area and desire to help promote it in her professional capacity led her to seek volunteering, and Charlie Morris, whom she met when she was a typesetter at the Daily Guard Newspaper, put her in touch with Cathy Drew, Executor Director of OGTC. She has been on board since then and says she has loved everything she has done and is proud to represent North Central Arkansas.
The last 20 years of her employment she worked for the late County Judge David Wyatt, West Elementary School Principal Jerry Harris, and Circuit Clerk Claudia Nobles and Judge John Kemp. At the Guard Office she says she made friends for a life time, and then the West Elementary teachers, students, and their families grew close to her forever. Her last job she was hired in a newly created position to collect felony fines and restitution. She was so proud that after three years she more than tripled the annual revenues that she retired! Her part-time retirement job was with the ortho docs, Drs. Allen and Angel where she also met many people from all over the area, and made another set of new friends! She is a published writer and has also written feature articles for the Batesville Guard TV Guide and the Arkansas Democrat Gazette.
She has a daughter, Misty Long Sparks, son-in-law Dloyd Sparks, and three grands, Dalton Lee, Victoria Lynn and Anna Rose, who own her heart, and three more heartbeat grands, Nico and Corbin of Washington, and a late granddaughter, Ginger Savannah. Her late husband, Ken Smith, was the Batesville Postmaster.
Totally retired now, Ginger offers her time and writing abilities to OGTC as she travels around the state and visits with so many nice folks, writes reviews, and tries to be a worthy representative for Ozark Gateway Tourism. She is a people person who really cares for all God has blessed us with in our beautiful state of Arkansas in the United States of America.