The brainchild of former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, former Queens Borough President Claire Shulman and former Parks Commissioner Henry Stern, the $66 million project features an Olympic-sized swimming pool and an NHL-regulation ice rink that will open later this year. The facility, the largest recreation facility ever constructed in a city park, is open to the public year-round for annual fees of $75 for adults and $10 for seniors. Children under 18 are admitted for free."It's beautiful," said 74-year-old Harriet Meyersohn. "I've lived here all my life and we've never had anything like this around here. You better believe I'll be here every week to get my swimming in."Members of the Townsend Harris High School girls swim team showed off the competitive side of the pool Friday morning by participating in a friendly 50-meter race, while children from PS 15 and the Roy Wilkins Senior Dolphins opted to take a more leisurely approach, splashing one another and floating around the hulking body of water.The pool itself is 25 meters wide by 50 meters long, meeting international competition standards, and features three movable bulkheads which can be used to divide the pool into three separate sections, which allow the pool to be utilized for several different activities at the same time. A movable floor that stretches across one-third of the pool allows for the depth to be adjusted from just a few inches to more than seven feet deep, giving way to a more than 12-foot deep diving area at the opposite end.Borough President Helen Marshall, who provided more than $10 million in funding for the project since taking office in 2001, championed the facility as an aquatic wonderland exemplifying the spirit of the park it resides in."What better way for government to spend capital dollars than to harness 1 million gallons of this natural resource for an aquatic center and also transform it into ice next door for the enjoyment of thousands of children of all ages," she said. "And who knows what future Olympian swimmers and ice skaters will perhaps one day say, 'I first started swimming' or 'I first tied on a pair of ice skates at the recreation center in Flushing Meadows Corona Park.' "The building housing the pool and ice rink features a cable-supported roof, allowing for the side walls to be easily removed to expand the venue with temporary bleachers for larger events."This building is a feat of architecture and structural engineering, with its elegant and exceptionally efficient cabled-stayed roof design, not dissimilar to the construction of some of the great bridges of the world," said city Economic Development Corporation Senior Vice President David Kane. "Additionally, the way in which the building is sited, with such tremendous views of Flushing Meadows Corona Park and the grand yet inviting nature of its spaces, is a signal of the city's commitment to design excellence and to the creation of public architecture worthy of our great city."The Flushing Meadows Corona Park Natatorium and Ice Rink can be reached via Avery Avenue and 131st Street in Flushing and is open from Monday to Friday from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m., Saturday from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.Reach reporter Stephen Stirling by e-mail at Sstirling@
©2008 Community News Group
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