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Mission pool, center officially open

20140210 MISSION Ribbon-cuttings 1309Mission city leaders waited seven months for the right time to formally announce the community center and natatorium at Bannworth Park open for business.

City Manager Martin Garza said the buildings were preliminarily accepted by the city in June in time for summer use. Also, he said, the city wanted them open in time for the start of the school year. It allowed Sharyland Independent School District to use the pool during the winter.

But, though the buildings have been in use since June, the official ribbon cutting wasn't held until Monday afternoon in conjunction with an exhibition by the International Blind Tennis Congress.

"We reserved the ribbon cutting for this date, knowing that we were working together with the Blind Tennis Congress," Garza said. "We felt that this was a big event being that it's an international exhibition that was taking place."

Dozens attended the ribbon cutting, including several visually impaired children who themselves are learning to play tennis.

Garza, also a tennis players, said he'd never heard of the sport before partnering with the International Blind Tennis Congress, but he knew the partnership would make the ribbon cutting special. Later that day, the No. 1 tennis team in Mexico played the No. 1 tennis pair from Japan.

Tony Guerrero, acting chairman of the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board, said just four years ago, the park was just a diamond in the rough, and 50 years ago, it was just a field surrounded by orchards. He remembered there were only two pools in the city when he was growing up, one at a hotel and one over where the sewer plant now sits.

His family couldn't afford to swim at the hotel, so he did a lot of "resistance swimming" in a nearby canal.

20140210 MISSION Ribbon-cuttings 1320"For a diving board, we just backed up a truck and we dove and we swam there, and yes a couple of people lost their lives that were good friends of mine, but that was it for us," Guerrero said, adding that it's taken years to establish the park, "but we had a mayor that kept on us and kept on us and kept on us and said it's not going to be a dream, it's going to be a reality."

George Myers, president of the Mission Chamber of Commerce, said in an era of tight budgets, some may call the park improvements frills.

"But I can tell you from a quality of life perspective, these services, these types of amenities, these are as important to the city as even police and fire services," Myers said. "From a Chamber of Commerce perspective, we always look at everything from the focus of business. From a business perspective, they're looking at quality of life."

For his part, Mayor Norberto "Beto" Salinas, deemed the man of the hour, said, "I hope that people enjoy them, and the kids, which are the most important part of our lives here in the City of Mission.

"We're always going to have a home for anyone that wants to come and visit."

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