O'Fallon rec center
5:18 pm
Mon September 24, 2012

Mayor, Black Caucus Reach Deal To Open North St. Louis Rec Center

Mayor Francis Slay and the Aldermanic Black Caucus appear to have reached a deal on an operating contract for a new recreation complex in O'Fallon Park on the city's north side.

The deal still needs aldermanic approval and would take effect 90 days after the mayor's signature. That puts the earliest opening for the facility after the start of the new year - more than a year behind schedule.

"This is a big city," Mayor Francis Slay said at a press conference today. "There's a lot of people involved in what we do and how we get things done, and sometimes it takes longer than all of us would like. My motive all along has been to get it open, operated professionally, and make it accessible to as many people as possible." 

The deal works like this:

  • The YMCA of Greater St. Louis will handle the operations portion of the facility. The Boys and Girls Clubs of Greater St. Louis will provide the programming. The contract is for 5 years.
  • Discounted memberships (up to 90 percent in some cases) will be given to families with incomes of $31,000 a year or below. This is the same formula that's in place at all of the YMCA branches in the St. Louis metro area
  • Both the YMCA and the Boys and Girls Clubs will have 650 low-cost memberships ($25 per year) for eligible children up to age 18. This is a deal negotiated specifically for the O'Fallon facility.

The recreation center is in Alderman Antonio French's 21st Ward, and he led the negotiations for the black caucus. He says the mayor agreed with all the ideas in principle - but the language was never included in the first proposed contract.

"It's one thing to take people's word for their promises, but when you're talking about a $12 million deal, we wanted to make sure that language is in the actual contract we approve," French said.

The YMCA estimates it will cost about $2.1 million to operate the facility. It expects to take in about $900,000 in programming and membership fees. The remaining $1.2 million is covered with a subsidy from the city.

For the first two years, the city believes it has enough money from a sales tax meant for parks, plus leftover funds allocated for a unused operating subsidy for the Carondelet YMCA to cover that subsidy. After that, the revenue has to come from somewhere else.

Despite the uncertainty, Slay called the contract sustainable.

"Of course, eventually, this is going to have to be renewed, and as a city we need to recommit to this, but this is something that's way too important to our city," Slay said. "We need to make sure that we have quality facilities available to our citizens, in a way that's accessible to the maximum amount of people."

The aldermen can send the contract to the mayor no earlier than next Friday.

Follow Rachel Lippmann on Twitter: @rlippmann