Das Rec a success, adds competitive swim team

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New Braunfels officials may have underestimated the success of the city’s first major recreation facility, Das Rec, which opened just more than a year ago.

The 77,000-square-foot recreation center that cost $24 million to build has shattered budgeted membership and program participation goals. In fact, the first-year hope of 2,400 memberships sold was surpassed the first 10 days after it opened July 21, 2018. At the one-year mark, Das Rec has 14,897 members on 6,439 memberships. The original plan called for 4,800 members on 2,400 memberships.

“It has been a tremendous success,” said Stacey Dicke, New Braunfels parks and recreation director. “People are asking when we are going to build another one.”

The answer of “we aren’t planning on that right now” doesn’t mean that the nation’s second-fastest growing city will be a one-recreation-center city forever. The population in the 2010 Census showed 58,000 residents, while next year’s Census numbers will likely approach 90,000 residents.

Building the facility was funded through a 2013 bond package which allocated $20 million for parks. Since the election in which the bond was passed, the city has added approximately 20,000 residents and has gone from the 18th fastest-growing community with more than 50,000 residents to No. 2 in the U.S., according to Census Bureau estimates.

“We’ve already expanded services, and the success has allowed us to make more investments into programs and equipment,” Dicke said.

Secret of its success

City officials point to the cooperation of the community when citing reasons for the success of Das Rec. The facility was built with $16 million from the voter-approved bond, while the property at 345 Landa St. was purchased for $2.5 million. New Braunfels ISD contributed $2.2 million toward the eight-lane competition swimming pool, which hosts the New Braunfels ISD and Comal ISD swim teams. The New Braunfels 4B board, which allocates sales tax funding for development projects throughout the city, gave $5.8 million toward the aquatics and an additional gym. The project came in under budget and the success has allowed for expansion of programs without higher costs for taxpayers.

A good first year

Among the features of Das Rec are a 7,300-square-foot cardio/fitness area, an elevated indoor walking track which circles the 20,000-square-foot gym area, a water slide, a main competition pool and another leisure pool, a resistance channel and a children’s pool area with a spray feature.

Programs in the first year include exercise, youth sport leagues, masters swim, swim lessons, senior programs, special events and adult sport leagues. All, according to Dicke, have been successful.

“Our focus has been on member retention and member services,” Dicke said. We’ve added fitness equipment and programs. We have even used our lawn outside for some fitness classes.”

Dicke said the first youth basketball league had more than 200 participants in the spring and the summer camps were at capacity.

“Our residents are coming out and being active,” Dicke said. “A lot of our programs are growing.”

Shaman and Heather Morris purchased a family membership to Das Rec when it opened.

“Our son has taken swim lessons and played on the basketball league last January,” Heather Morris said. “We’ve enjoyed each activity they have to offer.”

New swim club forming

Tryouts have started for Surge Aquatics, a year-round competitive swim team that will call Das Rec home. At Community Impact Newspaper’s  Aug. 12 deadline, 170 swimmers had signed up for tryouts for the new team.

City Council approved the use seven lanes of the competition pool in the late afternoon and early evenings.

Derek Howorth, an All-American swimmer who competed at The University of Texas at Austin, was hired as the coach. He has coached several teams in Texas, including in the San Antonio area.

Howorth said many year-round competitors will be able to swim in New Braunfels, making it more convenient for parents who have had to travel to San Antonio or Austin to compete on year-round club teams.

“I’m looking forward to the challenge,” said Howorth, who with two other coaches will help narrow the team to 120-150 swimmers to start. “Our goal is to bring a competitive program to the city of New Braunfels. It’s great to see so many people are excited about swim here.”

Howorth said he is impressed with Das Rec as a facility, which provides a good setting for practice and meets.

“It’s great and everything is wide open,” Howorth said. “You have the ability to have a conversation, and see what is going on at all times.”

City Council members discussed how the team would affect membership use of the pool before making the decision to approve the team.

“We have a very successful summer [Landa Park Dolphins] swim team that has been here for over 50 years,” Dicke said. “This will be different. It will be indoors and year-round. We are so fortunate that Derek wants to be a part of this and start something new here.”

Dicke said the city will not incur extra costs with the team. Swimmers pay to be part of the team and some of the revenue, based on a sliding scale, will come back to the city for use and maintenance of the facility.

The Morris’ son will try out for the Das Rec swim team.

“We are extremely excited for the new Das swim team,” Heather Morris said. “If all goes well, he’ll be able to learn and grow with this new team.”

The New Braunfels community has been longtime supporters of strong swim programs. Bud Dallman founded the Landa Park Dolphins, along with the swim programs at New Braunfels High School and Canyon High School. He was a record holder in swimming. He volunteered for more than 50 years and coached several swimmers who set American and world records.

The tradition continues today with the Dolphins as the team competes in the Texas Amateur Athletic Federation.

Now New Braunfels residents have options for swim programs.

“I can’t wait to get started,” said Howorth, who expects competition to begin in September or October.

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Joe Warner
Joe Warner is managing editor of the nine Austin-Central Texas editions of Community Impact Newspaper. He previously served as senior editor of the flagship Round Rock, Pflugerville and Hutto newspaper. He came to Central Texas from Metro Detroit, where he was editor and general manager of several daily and weekly publications. He is the former president of the Michigan Press Association and was on the MPA board of directors for nine years.
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