Be(long) to the Long Center

So, what’s the connection with the Long Center in Clearwater and celebrities Morgan Freeman, Ashley Judd and Harry Connick Jr.? They filmed some of the pool scenes there for the movie “Dolphin Tale.”

Speaking of pool visits, Bobby Finke – a Clearwater resident – and Caeleb Dressel at times practiced laps at the Long Center prior to their exhilarating gold medal victories last month in swimming competitions at the Tokyo Summer Olympics. Ryan Lochte, a 12-time Olympic medalist as well as past Olympic swim teams also utilized the Long Center to hone their skills.

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But what about us common folks? Fear not, because the Long Center has been welcoming adults and children of all ages from all points of the compass to its prodigious facilities since 1990. If you’ve been there, you know just what I mean; if you haven’t visited, I promise you won’t be disappointed.

Richard Auskalnis, Recreation Facility Manager for the Long Center, oversees 60 full-time, part-time and seasonal employees.

“The Long Center was named after H.E. ‘Zip’ Long who donated $1.5 million toward the building of the facility,” said Auskalnis. “About 300,000 people use the facilities each year including Clearwater residents and visitors.”

Beholding the size of the property is for sure an eye-popping experience. The fields, parking area and buildings equate to a 150,000-square-foot facility.

The lap pool itself is 700,000 gallons and the training pool 40,000.

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Throw in three basketball courts,

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two soccer fields, a large playground,

Parks & Rec Staff, Clearwater Parks and Rec

and walking trails plus the Aging Well Center, and you can get lost if you don’t pay attention to the directional signage.

For some of us folks with a few gray hairs or no hairs at all, the Aging Well Center is not some sort of Geritol soiree. Instead, it’s quite dynamic, helping older adults to remain independent and to stay healthier with sessions including Yoga, meditation and balancing exercises.

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University professor and past Clearwater City Councilmember Bob Cundiff visits the Aging Well Center two or three times each week.

“It’s helped me in many ways,” he said. “It’s not only a physical benefit in terms of losing weight and gaining strength, but also quite a mental boost by learning about healthier habits.”

Tone up, sharpen your sporting skills or just have fun at the Long Center. It’s under the purview of the Clearwater Parks & Recreation department. Check out the website for online registration, hours of operation, fees and more. Clearwater residents get discounts on all memberships.

The Long Center

1501 N. Belcher Rd., Clearwater, FL 33765


Feature photo courtesy of Clearwater Parks and Recreation


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