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Park and Rec opens new facility despite budget concerns

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The Mecklenburg County Park and Recreation Department opens a $10 million sports academy on Saturday in West Charlotte. The 30,000 square foot Revolution Park Sports Academy will have boxing and wrestling facilities, even a computer lab. Despite looming budget cuts, the head of the county's park system says the Academy will remain open when the fiscal year begins July 1, although something else will have to give. Revolution Sports Academy has been in the works for two years. It's a new concept. The goal is to use boxing and wrestling to teach kids how to stay fit. Jim Garges is the Director of the Mecklenburg County Park and Recreation Department. "The great thing about it is - there's a number of things - but one I think is that this is a much different type of facility. The whole focus here is really youth sports and learning. You know, how do you learn, become a healthier person, become a better person through sport." Of course, in these days of cutbacks, it will be a challenge to keep open. The park department already faces the prospect of $17 million in cuts beginning July 1 - nearly half its current budget. Still, Garges says the Sports Academy isn't in danger of shutting down when the new fiscal year begins. But some other properties may not be so lucky. While parks will remain open, he says some facilities will close or have reduced hours. "You'll see less programs, of course you've got - you know, you'll have close to half the staff that we had before. So I mean it doesn't take too much to figure out that, you know, it's just going to be a different kind of department." Garges says it won't be clear what's getting the axe until the budget is finalized. But if half of the budget is eliminated, that could mean several hundred layoffs and reduced maintenance of the over 18,000 acres of park property. Not all news is bad for Mecklenburg county's Park Department. This week it was nominated for a gold medal from the National Recreation and Park Association. It's the Oscar for parks and recreation departments.