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Hobbs hopes new rec center will help diversify economy

A three-story jungle gym with towering slides and a maze of tunnels and bridges to crawl through marks the core of Hobbs’ new Center of Recreational Excellence. (Roberto E. Rosales/Journal)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Come June, Hobbs residents and visitors can dive into a humongous public play pen that will offer year-round sports, exercise and leisure opportunities for every age.

The city’s new 158,000-square-foot Center of Recreational Excellence, or CORE, is part of an effort to improve quality of life and diversify the local economy so it can better weather the oil and gas industry’s boom-and-bust cycles.

CORE is set to open June 2 as an indoor, multigenerational complex offering children, adults and seniors a smorgasbord of fun and fitness activities. That includes everything from basketball, soccer and football to swimming, racquetball and table sports. There’s even a massive, three-story jungle gym for kids that includes towering slides 38 feet tall and a maze of tunnels and bridges to crawl through.

The $61 million project could be a boost for residents in Hobbs and Lea County, while attracting more visitors and potentially new residents.

“We’ve never had a multigenerational recreational facility in Hobbs before,” said Parks and Recreation Director Doug McDaniel. “We believe it will culturally change our entire community, in both the city and the county. It can change how people feel about where they live.”

The economic diversification effort is a partnership with the county and other public and private entities that began more than a decade ago to make Hobbs a more attractive place to live, work and play. By drawing a broader array of businesses, professionals and skilled workers to the area, local officials hope to diversify the local economy.

The city also recently upgraded its softball and baseball complex, and built a $12 million golf course and a $10 million outdoor family fun center.

Targeted city incentives have also helped generated $150 million in private construction of about 2,000 new apartments and homes since 2012, said Hobbs Mayor Sam Cobb.

That, combined with more retail and hospitality businesses in the city, helped stabilize the community somewhat during the recent oil-and-gas downturn. Housing demand, for example, remained strong during the bust, and school enrollment declined only by about 2 percent, Cobb said.

The CORE facility is the most ambitious investment to date. It’s unique in New Mexico and includes some one-of-a-kind features like the jungle gym.

“There’s no other playground structure like this,” said marketing coordinator Lindsay Chism McCarter.

CORE’s indoor water park includes a competition swimming and diving pool, a leisure pool with two 40-foot slides and a winding “lazy river.” A second-floor laptop bar overlooks the aquatic wing. The turf zone includes a full-sized indoor field for soccer, football, lacrosse and more. And the gymnasium has six basketball courts and drop-down volleyball nets.

Other areas house fitness equipment, pickle board, shuffle board, and table sports like ping-pong. A running track lines the second floor.

Once open, CORE will employ nine people full time and up to 80 part time.

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