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Rec programs rebound

City sticking with emphasis on outdoor activities

SOLON– Business is picking up for the Solon Recreation Department.
Recreation Director Tom Harder reported strong numbers for spring soccer and a full slate of expanded programs for summer during a Solon City Council meeting March 17.
“Our numbers are basically right where they were pre-COVID, which is great,” Harder said after the meeting.
Soccer registration closed with over 250 kids signed up for 33 teams across pre-kindergarten through sixth grade, he said. Practice begins soon with games in early April.
Harder provided an overview of youth and adult programs and highlighted upcoming special events during the virtual council session.
The recreation department’s programs suffered under the COVID-19 pandemic with many 2020 offerings canceled. The city has also continued to battle utility costs associated with the Solon Community Center.
The city started leasing the Solon Community School District’s former middle school on South Iowa Street as a community center in the middle of 2018, but revised the lease several times and scaled back operations.
The current three-month lease, approved back in December of 2020, runs through March 30.
With warmer weather and COVID-19 still around, Harder said, the recreation department will focus on outdoor programs utilizing the Solon Recreation and Nature Area (SRNA) and eliminate walk-in hours at the community center.
“We’re enthusiastic and optimistic about what should take place this spring and summer, especially with how our soccer registration numbers look right now,” he observed.
Close on the heels of soccer is youth baseball and softball, he noted.
Registration started for third through sixth grade with pre-kindergarten through second grade starting this week.
“We’re expecting another big crowd for that as we move through the summer months,” he said.
Swimming lessons in Mount Vernon also return in 2021, Harder added, with registration opening in mid-April for lessons in June.
The recreation department is beefing up its adult offerings.
The city will host a yoga class in May and June outside the SRNA’s Timber DOME Lodge, he said. A similar session in fall was pretty successful, so the department is bringing it back, he added.
Sand volleyball in August and September also proved popular, so an additional league will be offered in May and June with signup in April.
A three-on-three adult basketball league is also on the horizon for June, July and August, he announced, utilizing the revitalized outdoor courts at the SRNA which are ideally sized for the program.
Registration is expected to begin in early May, he added.
Harder also has high hopes for establishing a slo-pitch softball league for late summer or early fall.
Youth programs keep the city’s recreation fields busy through late summer, he explained, and the department is exploring the feasibility of scheduling slo-pitch.
Solon’s Recreation Department is also hosting several special events in April and May, and is currently wrapping up a fundraising partnership with Sugar Bottom Bakery, he reported.
Sugar Bottom Bakery is donating 25 percent of proceeds from the sale of monster cookies by the dozen through Friday, April 2, with pickup in time for Easter Sunday, he said.
A vendor fair with raffle and concessions at the Timber DOME Lodge held Saturday, April 17, from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m. also benefits Solon programs. A portion of vendor fees and the raffle will come back to the recreation department, Harder said.
He’s also working with the Solon Public Library to start a series of free outdoor movie events utilizing new projection and sound equipment purchased with a donation by the Solon Area Community Foundation.
“I think it will be a pretty cool and unique opportunity for the Solon community to take in some movies outdoors at the SRNA this summer,” he noted.
On Saturday, May 8, the department invites the public to the SRNA for “Miles with Mom,” a fun run/walk focused on Mother’s Day starting at 9 a.m.
One-mile and 5K options are available for individuals or pairs, with registration now open. Signup continues after mid-April but T-shirts won’t be guaranteed, he said.
But as the outdoor activities heat up, events at the community center will cool down.
The Solon Community Center is currently open from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Thursday and from 1 until 4 p.m. on Saturday for open gym.
The hours continue through the end of March, Harder said, but beginning in April the center will not be open on a walk-in basis.
Use at the community center wasn’t great over the winter months because of the pandemic, he observed, and while open gym is popular and traffic picked up with spring break, people will be migrating outside as winter ends.
The weekend open gym hours usually draw between 40 to 50 kids and family members to shoot hoops or kick a soccer ball over a three-hour period, he said. He’d love to expand the hours, but with winter programs, the gym schedule fills up pretty fast.
The community center will remain closed to general traffic from April until August, Harder said, with a potential reopening in September.
He anticipates the youth numbers will continue to increase and he’s looking forward to getting outside and incorporating new programs and events.
“We’re really excited about what’s coming up this spring and summer, and we look forward to keep adding on things as COVID hopefully clears in the summer months,” he added.