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A place for all ages: Kahle Community Center

by Linda Hiller

If Carson Valley residents could see the newly-expanded Kahle Park Community Center at Lake Tahoe, they’d be clamoring for a facility just like it.

At least that’s what Kahle recreation coordinator Vicki Schussel and county parks director Scott Morgan speculate from time to time, ever since Phase II of the Kahle facility opened.

“This is truly a multi-age facility and more than anything, a family center,” Morgan said. “Before we opened this new Phase II in October, all we had was classrooms in Phase I. We’d typically see mom or dad drive up, drop the kids off and drive away. Now, they all come in – dad lifts weights, the little kids might go to preschool, mom might walk around the track or take a class … there’s something for everyone.”

“You should see this place after school and in the evenings,” Schussel said. “It’s amazing how much the community has adopted this place as theirs in less than three months – we’re already averaging around 1,700 people a day.”

The Kahle Park Community Center is administered by the Douglas County Parks and Recreation Department. The center was built on 18 acres in two phases for a total of $2.75 million and includes 25,000 square feet of classrooms, a Discovery Center preschool, a two-story multi-use gymnasium with a weight and cardiovascular workout center upstairs, an elevated walking track that circles the gym (members doing laps can watch the goings-on below), an arcade, sitting area, indoor playground, television lounge, two soccer fields, a softball field and large outdoor playground.

“We also have a Lake view,” Morgan said. “We may be the only workout center with a view of Lake Tahoe.”

A $3 million Phase III, with a swimming pool and rock climbing wall, is planned for the future, Morgan said.

The Kahle facility was the product of many years of Lake Tahoe residents asking for a community center and showing up in large numbers at park and recreation commission meetings, Schussel said. It was eventually funded largely through room tax proceeds.

“The community really asked for this,” she said. “They packed every commission meeting with 200 people and kept coming until they were heard.”

Morgan, who has been involved in building two other community centers – all financially self-supporting – said making a county community center pay for itself is beneficial to everyone.

“We learn a lot every time we build one of these,” he said. “This is the third one I’ve done – the first was in Indio, Calif., then Palm Desert and then this one. I’ve learned something every time, and this is the most efficient use of space so far. A center like this provides a real service to the community.”

Crowding in the Carson Valley Senior Center and the lack of a centralized community/recreation facility has sparked talks of building a multi-age center somewhere in Minden or Gardnerville, but Morgan said the costs involved in building a center here that would be comparable to Kahle – which cost approximately $2.75 million for 25,000 square feet to serve 3,000 full time residents – would most likely require a ballot vote and a miracle.

“We’d probably need around $10 million and a 60,000 square-foot facility in the Valley,” he said. “But if people really wanted it and spoke up, it could happen. I’ve thought about what a great center for the Carson Valley would be like – I’ve walked through it in my mind a thousand times. One thing that was very helpful in building Kahle was the support we got from the county commission.”

Morgan said the parks and recreation commission will be meeting some time in March or April.

Use of the gym and exercise equipment is by membership, which is how the center is financially self-sufficient. Yearly fees are: children 9 and younger, free (must be accompanied by parent or guardian); 10-17 years, $59; adult county residents, $159; adult non-residents, $259; senior (55 and older), $149, and senior non-residents are $259. There are also 30-day passes and a $5 drop-in rate.

Center hours are Monday-Friday, 7 a.m.-10 p.m.; Saturday, 8 a.m.-8 p.m.; and Sunday, 11 a.m.-8 p.m.

To get there, go up Highway 207 (Kingsbury Grade) and head down from the summit to the Highway 50 intersection. Kahle Park is north of Kingsbury, marked with a sign, towards the bottom of the hill. For more information, call 588-0271.