ALACHUA – On Monday night, the Alachua City Commission heard good news about a resource for local senior citizens.  Seniors throughout Alachua County now have a new place to exercise, take classes and meet people. According to Anthony Clarizio, Director of ElderCare of Alachua County, the Alachua County Senior Recreation Center, located at 5701 NW 34 Street in Gainesville is thriving.

“It’s located with good access to all parts of the city,” he said.

Clarizio said the center, located at Gainesville’s Northside Park, is near Alachua, Waldo and High Springs. He said the center expected 500 people to register in the first year, and they’ve seen 2,400 registrants so far.

“This thing has just taken off,” he said.

The 17,000-square-foot center cost $5 million to build. Funding sources included the City of Gainesville and Alachua County, with each contributing $1.5 million to the project from revenue generated by the Wild Spaces-Public Places funding initiative and a $2 million state grant awarded through the Florida Department of Elder Affairs.

The center has a game room, classrooms, computer lab, exercise room and more. Clarizio said the number one exercise class at the center is Zumba Gold.

He said the center is working to extend its hours and allow working seniors to participate as well.

He said many seniors are losing friends and dealing with loss, and the center can help them cope.

“We have to figure out ways to replace that social network,” he said.  “Otherwise, people become depressed and isolated in their homes, and that’s about the worst thing they can do.”

Alachua Mayor Gib Coerper said he hasn’t been inside the facility, but he said the exterior impresses him.

“It’s a beautiful building with Wal-Mart right across the street,” he said.