Homestead Recreation Center will be a star in the community, predicts John Rohan, director of The Villages Recreation and Parks. The newest amenity in the Village of Citrus Grove officially opened Friday to rave reviews, despite the weather not cooperating with one of the evening’s planned events. Hundreds of residents toured the facility and enjoyed the boardwalk nature trail, the dog park, the resort-style family pool and favorites such as pickleball, tennis, bocce and shuffleboard. One of the expected major draws of the center, astronomy pads with electricity for telescopes, was unable to be used during an evening showcase because of cloud cover. However, members of The Villages Astronomy Club were in attendance to show off several telescopes and inform residents about their club.
Mark Graybill, president of the club, said members look forward to being able to use the facility on clearer nights.
“We’re very excited about the new amenity,” 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 300-plus members of the club appreciate the efforts of the recreation department staff and the Developer for including the astronomy park in the plans for the center.
“We have been working with the Recreation and Parks Department to get a site like this and it really turned out well,” he said. “We’re looking forward to hosting some star parties and enjoying some dark sky nights.”
The astronomy pads represent the great partnerships that exist in the community, Rohan said.
“Once again it’s an example of how a vision can become a reality with the great partnerships between the Developer, the residents and the Recreation and Parks Department,” he said. “Members of the astronomy club had been asking for a location where they can set up for stargazing and we were happy to be able to collaborate with them on this facility, like we have been able to do with so many other programs over the years.”
The astronomy pads can be reserved for nighttime viewing sessions by calling the recreation center at 352-674-1971.
Chris Iannello, recreation supervisor at the center, was excited to finally show off the new property.
“It’s always exciting to open up another great recreation center,” he said. “The residents have been waiting for this. With all the amenities we have here, I think they are going to be in for a treat.”
The interior of the recreation center has a farmhouse theme. Indoor amenities include a game room with billiards, darts and table shuffleboard, a card room, a large meeting room and a kitchen area. Patti Davis, of the Village of Bradford, said she and her husband, Rich, had been monitoring the progress of the center for months. They were particularly interested in the astronomy park, which also includes three corn toss courts, three horseshoe pits and a picnic pavilion.
“We ride our bikes down this way every day, so we’ve been following the progress,” she said. “We were always curious what they were doing back here. I’m always impressed at how they try to bring in new ideas with each new center.”
Kathy Katerman and her dog Buddy are happy to have a dog park closer to their new home in the Village of Citrus Grove.
“We’ve been here for one month and we were going to the other dog parks,” she said. “I made a map where they all are at and I tried to hit all of them. But we can bicycle right here.”
Katerman said Buddy, a mixed-breed rescue, gives the new park “two thumbs up.”
“He runs like crazy and makes new friends at every park,” she said. “I’m very pleased with how The Villages designs everything. It’s all very impressive.”
Steve and Marcia Lawrence moved to their home in the Village of St. Catherine just after Christmas. They enjoyed talking a stroll on the boardwalk nature trail through the wetlands that border the center.
“It’s a very nice, calming walk,” Marcia said. “It’s a short walk, but the scenery is gorgeous.” Rohan is confident Homestead will be a popular location.
“It’s going to blow people away,” he said. “The concept is unique with, of course, the astronomy park area, the nature trail walking path, then you add a dog park and all the courts with so many favorite activities. Then you go inside and you have the game room component with billiards, darts and table shuffleboard, you have the kitchen, the meeting room and card room. There’s endless programming opportunities for residents inside and outside. It’s really going to be a fan favorite.”