It sure seems as if Las Cruces, N.M., has a lot going for it these days. Earlier this year, Forbes magazine voted it the best small metro area for business and careers, and Money magazine voted it the sixth best city in which to retire.

Butregardless of your age or occupation, Las Cruces offers something else: the Meerscheidt Recreation Center.

Meerscheidt serves the diverse population of 170,000 people who live in or around the city in a smorgasbord of ways. It is the focal point of virtually everything recreational in Las Cruces.

It is aquatics, but so much more, offering almost every activity imaginable, from aerobics to yoga, plus community-minded programs such as day care and free summer lunches for kids 18 and under.

“We are pretty integral as far as Las Cruces culture,” says Melanie D. Viramontes, the recreation leader for the center. She adds that the facility and staff are used for all sorts of sports leagues, beginning with registration.

Governed by the city’s Recreation Section under the direction of Sonya Delgado, the center’s coordinator and aquatics director, Meerscheidt serves approximately 300,000 patrons annually.

As far as aquatics go, there are two outdoor seasonal pools and a year-round, covered pool for myriad activities, even water aerobics and synchronized swimming.

Meerscheidt also offers various safety programs, including Be A Guard, in which 5- to 15-year-olds learn what it’s like to be lifeguards, and RAYS (Raising Awareness Yields Sun Safety), which teaches children about protecting themselves from the sun.

Then there are special events such as Rock the Pool on July 4th. Besides fireworks, there are contests in which kids compete with or against lifeguards.

But for all the activities and events — and there’s no membership fee; patrons pay only for the programs they sign up for — Meerscheidt’s greatest gift may just be its overall place in the community, how it impacts the lives of so many Las Crucesians.

As Viramontes notes, “Recreation and Meerscheidt Center have become synonymous.” When she tells people she works with the Recreation Section, they always ask: “At Meerscheidt?”