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Center of Attention: New Claremont Rec Center a Big Hit 

  • Clockwise from right, Stephen Lavoie, 12 Jasimine Cripps, 14, Sarah Langlois, 12, and Sierra Nightingale, 12, hang out at the Claremont Community Center after swimming Wednesday, July 3, 2013.<br/>Valley News - James M. Patterson<br/>jpatterson@vnews.com<br/>photo@vnews.com

    Clockwise from right, Stephen Lavoie, 12 Jasimine Cripps, 14, Sarah Langlois, 12, and Sierra Nightingale, 12, hang out at the Claremont Community Center after swimming Wednesday, July 3, 2013.
    Valley News - James M. Patterson
    jpatterson@vnews.com
    photo@vnews.com Purchase photo reprints »

  • Jason Eno, left, an his fiancee Eleizabeth Wilson of Orlando, Fla. play basketball at the Claremont Community Center Wednesday, July 3, 2013. Eno is a 1994 graduate of Stevens High School and was visiting his father who is a member at the center. "I wish they had this when I was a kid," said Eno. "I would have been here playing basketball."<br/>Valley News - James M. Patterson<br/>jpatterson@vnews.com<br/>photo@vnews.com

    Jason Eno, left, an his fiancee Eleizabeth Wilson of Orlando, Fla. play basketball at the Claremont Community Center Wednesday, July 3, 2013. Eno is a 1994 graduate of Stevens High School and was visiting his father who is a member at the center. "I wish they had this when I was a kid," said Eno. "I would have been here playing basketball."
    Valley News - James M. Patterson
    jpatterson@vnews.com
    photo@vnews.com Purchase photo reprints »

  • Lorin Day, right, encourages her daughter Sophia, 5, to test her swimming abilities in the pool at the Claremont Community Center Wednesday, July 3, 2013.<br/>Valley News - James M. Patterson<br/>jpatterson@vnews.com<br/>photo@vnews.com

    Lorin Day, right, encourages her daughter Sophia, 5, to test her swimming abilities in the pool at the Claremont Community Center Wednesday, July 3, 2013.
    Valley News - James M. Patterson
    jpatterson@vnews.com
    photo@vnews.com Purchase photo reprints »

  • Clockwise from right, Stephen Lavoie, 12 Jasimine Cripps, 14, Sarah Langlois, 12, and Sierra Nightingale, 12, hang out at the Claremont Community Center after swimming Wednesday, July 3, 2013.<br/>Valley News - James M. Patterson<br/>jpatterson@vnews.com<br/>photo@vnews.com
  • Jason Eno, left, an his fiancee Eleizabeth Wilson of Orlando, Fla. play basketball at the Claremont Community Center Wednesday, July 3, 2013. Eno is a 1994 graduate of Stevens High School and was visiting his father who is a member at the center. "I wish they had this when I was a kid," said Eno. "I would have been here playing basketball."<br/>Valley News - James M. Patterson<br/>jpatterson@vnews.com<br/>photo@vnews.com
  • Lorin Day, right, encourages her daughter Sophia, 5, to test her swimming abilities in the pool at the Claremont Community Center Wednesday, July 3, 2013.<br/>Valley News - James M. Patterson<br/>jpatterson@vnews.com<br/>photo@vnews.com

Claremont — If only Tony Zotto could see what Claremont has for a recreation department now.

Zotto was Claremont’s first Parks and Recreation Department director, and during his tenure Claremont was recognized as having one of the top operations in New Hampshire.

Its indoor pool was one of the first constructed and was busy seven days a week. From that pool — and the outdoor pool — numerous Twin State Valley swim championship teams were developed.

But the pool was just one of the recreational facilities that were the envy of other towns. Its numerous parks and play areas featured nine tennis courts, plus baseball and softball fields. Moody Park, off Maple Avenue, to this day remains a gem of a picnic and play area, with its stone house at the top surrounded by several acres of green grass and miles of hiking trails.

In 1978, after Zotto’s passing, a gymnasium was erected and named in his honor. He probably deserved better — the tin structure included fabricated walls that, at times, cracked and chipped, letting the outside air into the building.

“We shored it up as best we could,” said Scott Hausler, the current director. “It served its purpose.”

The Zotto Gym was the not the only recreation structure to deteriorate. The top floor of the Goodwin Community Center building was deemed unsafe. The indoor pool was an on-again, off-again facility that was in need of repairs, and the outdoor pool on these hot July days sits idle and empty — shut up tight because it became too expensive to repair the leaks and constantly refill the pool.

So, what had been a top-shelf recreation department had gradually receded to where there just weren’t enough hammers and nails to keep its facilities operable. It was a recreation department in name only.

Something had to be done.

Enter the Claremont Savings Bank — a $3 million check in one hand and a deed to acreage on South Street in the other. Claremont City Manager Guy Santagate said, “Thank you very much,” and emptied both hands. As a result of those gifts, there now stands the $10.3 million Claremont Savings Bank Community Center.

And once more Claremont’s recreational facilities are the envy of many cities and towns in the Upper Valley.

This huge building houses two basketball courts, two pools, a raised track, fitness facility, game room, shower and locker rooms and a kitchen. There is also a meeting/conference room that seats up to 125. “It’s pretty much used every weekend,” said Hausler. “It’s nice to see it its being used for the purpose we had in mind.”

The public reaction to the facility has been overwhelming. Hausler said projections for membership units (single and family) were expected to come in around 700. At the end of May there 1,682 units and a membership of 3,656. Fifteen percent of that membership is from outside Claremont, and Hausler has no idea of what the out-of-town membership could become once the word gets around.

“We haven’t marketed the facility yet, but we will,” he said.

One of the reasons the facility has become so popular is the pricing. At $10 a month for youths and senior citizens and $25 a month for a family of four, the cost is attractive across the board. Yearly memberships are $150 for youths and seniors (55 and over) and $300 for a family of four. The facility is open seven days a week.

With the new building going great guns, there is no need to put more money into the old facilities. Eventually something will be done about the Zotto Gym, Goodwin Community Center building and indoor pool, which are all now locked up and in need to expensive repairs. “We’re still trying to identify what to do with those buildings,” said Hausler.