Catalano, Maribeth Straka, Angela Dunn and Mo Wolansky show
their excitement at being able to use the Gemini Center’s new
leisure pool Aug. 13. Members of Fairview Park’s new $19 million
recreation center celebrated the opening of the facility’s competition
and leisure pools with a luau last week. (West Life photo by
mark completion of Gemini Center
By Kevin Kelley
Published Aug. 20, 2008
Gemini Center is now complete.
The leisure pool and outdoor splash area, the last
sections of the $19-million dollar recreation center to be finished,
passed the final inspection of county and state health board officials
the afternoon of Aug. 12, according to Kim O’Farrell, the city’s
deputy director of recreation.
The following evening, city officials and rec center
members celebrated the completion of the facility with a luau. Musician
Jeff Cavallo played Caribbean themed music while members tried out
the new pool, which includes water slides and a lazy river.
About 400 people attended the luau, O’Farrell said.
“The pool was packed to the gills — inside and outside,”
she said. “We had a great response.”
Leube enjoys the water at the Gemini Center’s leisure pool.
(West Life photo by Larry Bennet)
Mayor Eileen Patton, who handed out Hawaiian-style
leis to luau attendees, said it was enjoyable to see the final chapter
of a project that dates back to October 2003. That’s when the grassroots
discussions among community leaders on how the city could improve
its educational and community facilities began.
In February 2005, voters narrowly approved two measures
— a .5 percent increase in the city income tax to fund the rec center
and a 4.9-mill capital improvement levy by the school district to
pay for the new Gilles-Sweet Elementary School, which opened in
August 2007. In addition, extensive renovations were made to Fairview
High School and Mayer Middle School. And the city took control of
the high school athletic field and replaced the grass with state-of-the
art artificial turf.
In an interview with West Life, Patton thanked residents
for making the Gemini Center happen.
“It was truly a community project,” the mayor said.
“It’s something the entire community should be proud of.”
The facility will serve to bring the community together,
Patton said, and provide year-round entertainment.
Patton said that having to fire the original pool
contractor, Camp Services, in November after it fell far behind
schedule was frustrating but the right thing to do.
Construction resumed in March with Capri Pools LLC
taking over construction. The competition pool opened to members
“I was more concerned in making sure the project was
done prefect rather than how long it would take,” Patton told West
Patton said the final project was worth the wait.
“The comment I heard over and over was ‘I can’t believe
we have this in our city,’” Patton said of conversations she had
during the Aug. 13 luau.
Brian Edwards, who grew up in Fairview Park and moved
back with his wife, Suzanne, and their two children this spring,
purchased a rec center membership in April.
“I’m really impressed,” Edwards said of the center’s
two pools. “It’s not something I ever expected to have in Fairview
Park in the years I lived here.”
He had used the Brecksville Community Center when
his family lived in Broadview Heights but said the Gemini Center
Tom Manillo, who became a member when the nonaquatic
sections of the Gemini Center opened in January, was watching his
18-month-old daughter Marin explore the splash ground just outside
the leisure pool.
“It’s fantastic,” he said of the center’s two pools.
“It’s great for the kids.”
Manillo, who said he had been eagerly awaiting the
completion of the pools, added that he plans to eventually enroll
his daughter in the center’s learn-to-swim classes.
“We’ll probably have her do everything aquatically
Hyunchul Kim, a Gemini Center member for three months,
came to the luau with his grandson Diontaye.
Kim, who said he voted for the Gemini Project in February
2005, estimates he visits the facility two to three times a week.
He expects those visits to increase now that the pools are open.
“We’ll probably use the pool more than anything,”
He’ll continue to use the workout facilities and track
as well. He noted that the center has plenty of equipment; he said
he’s never once had to wait to use equipment.
Kim also had high praise for the facility’s staff.
“The lifeguards are very attentive, and I’m very impressed
by that,” he said.
In fact, lifeguards made their first rescues at the
center on Thursday, O’Farrell said. Tom Blackenship assisted a teen
who got the wind knocked out of him after landing on his belly following
a dive. And Robert Crowe grabbed a 6-year-old who was being pulled
into the vortex of the pool.
O’Farrell reminds parents that pool rules dictate
that all swimmers 6 and under must be within arm’s length of an
adult at all times, both in and out of the water.
The competition and leisure pools are open during
regular business hours and close 30 minutes before the building
closes, O’Farrell said.
Current summer hours are weekdays, 6 a.m. to 9 p.m.;
Saturdays, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.; and Sundays, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Beginning
Sept. 1, the building will close at 10 p.m. on weekends, O’Farrell
Registration is currently taking place for learn-to-swim
classes, which will begin the week of Sept. 8, O’Farrell said.