It’s not everyday, or every decade to be more specific, that St. Louis City gets a new recreation center.
But on Saturday, community members and city officials alike cut the ribbon for the O’Fallon Park Recreation Complex, only the second of its kind to be built in the city since 1971.
“Today is a great event, especially for the north side community,” said Alderman Antonio French (21st Ward), who represents the ward were the facility was built.
“To have this facility located here in the middle of O’Fallon Park is just going to be hugely impactful in what we’re trying to do in terms of transforming this community.”
The 79,000 square foot facility is owned by the City of St. Louis and will be operated by the YMCA. The sprawling complex boasts a fitness center, indoor and outdoor pool, 12 basketball hoops and loads of programming for both children and adults.
Maurice Patton grew up nearby and still lives in the neighborhood. He said having access to a recreation center like this when he was growing up would have been like a dream come true.
“This being a safe environment, giving different facets of activities that you can be a part of, it would have been awesome,” Patton said.
Beverly Knight also grew up near the recreation center and can remember walking miles on hot summer days just to get somewhere her and her friends could swim. Now, she said, not only will area kids have a place to beat the heat, the larger community has a center that can help ensure young people with nothing to do during the summer months don’t find themselves causing trouble.
“It’s outstanding,” Knight said. “I hope that the people around here can be proud of this as much as I’m proud to have something like this in our area. I hope that they keep it up, this is something to be proud of, to be part of, to have something like this in our area is wonderful.”
The project came with a hefty price tag of about $23 million and it is the sister facility to the $21 million south side Recreation Complex in Carondelet Park, which opened in 2009.
Alderman French acknowledged that there had been some political discord stemming from some of the project’s details, but said funding was never really an issue. Rather, he said the political back and forth had more to do with making sure the center was financially accessible to low-income residents.
“We worked out an agreement where every child in the City of St. Louis can use this facility for $25 a year,” French said.
Additionally, he said that the Y’s contract with the city stipulates that income based discounts can knock off up to 90 percent of the cost of a family membership.
Mayor of St. Louis Francis Slay said it’s the voters who are to thank for the new building.
“It was submitted to the voters, they approved it,” Slay said. “It’s for them, our children, our families, and it’s something we’re very proud of.”
And it’s pride and family that brought out Debra Watson and her grandkids to celebrate the rec-center’s opening.
“It’s so rough out here, you know,” Watson said. “Kids can’t even walk down the street without getting shot. This is a wonderful facility, something to keep them out of trouble.”
The doors to the facility officially open on Monday, Martin Luther King Day.