By Catharin Shepard • Staff writer • Construction crews are still hard at work building the James Leach Hoke County Aquatic Center and will probably be working until the end of December to complete the project, according to county officials.
Commissioner James Leach, the building’s namesake, said he visited the building site last week and got an update on where things stand with the construction progress. Initially commissioners hoped the project would be able to wrap up in November, but there were delays in getting some of the materials due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Leach said.
Those delays have apparently been resolved and workers are now turning into the home stretch of building the interior of the recreation center. Though they still have work to do before it’s finished inside, “I think we finally have everything we need on site,” Leach said Tuesday. “We’re hoping and we’re going to keep our fingers crossed.”
Leach said he couldn’t give an exact date yet for when the recreation center will open to the public, but that he hopes to let people in to get a first look at it soon after the county gets the keys to the facility.
“We need to have an open house for all Hoke County citizens to come,” he said.
The county will be hiring additional employees to staff the center. They’re still working that out, Leach said.
The project is still on budget and has even managed to find a few places to save money, the commissioner said.
The recreation center will feature indoor basketball courts, an indoor walking track, office space for the Hoke County Parks and Recreation Department, plus classrooms for Parks and Recreation camps and other events. The aquatic center part of the recreation facility will have a regulation-sized swimming pool suitable for the Hoke High swim team to practice and host competitions. There will also be a family-friendly pool suitable for kids and swim lessons.
Commissioners decided two years ago to name the rec center after Leach, who pushed for the project to become a reality. A recent petition on Change.org seeks to have the center named after the late Hoke Sheriff Dr. Hubert Peterkin instead, and also seeks to change county policy to keep county leaders from naming any public building after a sitting elected official. The petition creators plan to bring the petition before the county commissioners at an upcoming meeting. The board’s first meeting in November, originally scheduled for last Monday, was canceled due to the election.