The people of Fairview Heights had three main questions about the planned recreation center, says Mayor Mark Kupsky — where’s it going to be, how much is it going to cost and can we afford it?
The mayor says city leaders have answered those questions and are ready to proceed with the estimated $17 million project planned for land at Bunkum Road just north of Interstate 64.
Even if residents or visitors don’t go to the center, they’ll effectively pay for its construction if they dine out in Fairview Heights. The city’s 1 percent food and beverage tax, which brings in about $1.5 million annually, will fund payments on the construction over 30 years. Roughly $1 million in annual operating costs will be covered by membership fees, according to the mayor.
Membership costs aren’t finalized yet, though an independent feasibility study suggested monthly fees of $65 for families, $40 for adults, $20 for youth under 18 years old and $25 for seniors to compete with nearby gyms. Day and yearly passes will also be available.
Construction is expected to begin in late October with a completion goal of early 2019.
With revenue streaming in from more than 75 restaurants and eight hotels, the city’s tax is a reliable source of funding, the mayor says.
Fairview Heights has used funds from the tax in recent years to pay for a new police station and storm-water and sewer improvements. When those bonds are paid off next year, the funding will be available for payments on the recreation center construction.
Though there are 37 fitness centers within a 15-minute drive of the planned center, the city is capable of supporting the 56,000-square-foot recreation center, according to an independent feasibility study from Florida-based Sports Facility Advisory. The city paid $41,000 for the study.
The McKendree MetroRecPlex in O’Fallon, the study maintains, is far enough away that it won’t affect attendance at the Fairview Heights center.
The city’s population is expected to increase up to 3 percent per year until at least 2021, according to the study, though the center will have to offer unique amenities in order to attract customers to draw in larger populations from surrounding areas. Fairview Heights has a population of 16,686, according to 2016 estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau.
The city purchased the 31 acres of land for the complex from Grant School District 110 for $650,000. The city hired EWR Architects of Fairview Heights to provide design and engineering services for $1 million. Swansea-based Holland Construction Services was selected as the construction manager of the project.
The center will include workout equipment, a gymnasium, aquatic center, indoor climbing wall, indoor track and free community space in the center’s lobby, plus outdoor facilities. A party room, soccer field, plus the aquatic center’s four-lane pool, water slide, splash pad, lazy river and vortex are aimed at attracting crowds from the region, as well as visitors, hotel customers and folks in town for sports tournaments.
Membership fees will have to stay affordable to attract lower-income residents who live farther away from the complex, according to the study. Residents within a 10-minute drive of the site earn between $25,000 and $50,000 annually, while most residents just 20 minutes away earn less than $25,000 on average.
The mayor, who was elected in 2015, says building the center has long been a vision of his since he started in public service in Fairview Heights 25 years ago. Residents don’t go to St. Clair Square mall to socialize like they used to, he said, and now the community needs a new place to gather.
“Unlike other communities, we don’t have a downtown, we don’t have a town square. When I moved to Fairview Heights in 1972, the mall was just getting ready to open, and that’s where people went,” Kupsky said. “So, we wanted to create a place where people could go, gather and spend time.”
Fairview Heights resident Carianne Rochford says she plans to join the rec center once it opens.
“There are options for the community but they’re more limited either by gender, age, physical ability,” Rochford said, adding that she believes the rec center will be “an inclusive place.”
What you need to know about the future Fairview Heights recreation center:
When will it open?
Construction is expected to begin in late October and completed in early 2019.
Who will be able to use the recreation center?
Anyone will be able to use the center, though there will be different rates depending on age and residency. Day passes will be available, as well as monthly and yearly memberships.
How much will memberships cost?
Membership costs aren’t finalized yet, though an independent feasibility study suggested monthly fees of $65 for families, $40 for adults, $20 for youth and $25 for seniors to compete with area gyms.
How will the city pay for the recreation center?
The city’s 1 percent food and beverage tax, which brings in about $1.5 million annually, will fund payments on the construction over 30 years. Roughly $1 million in annual operating costs will be covered by membership fees.
What will the center have to offer?
The center will include workout equipment, a gymnasium, aquatic center, climbing wall, indoor track, free community space, a party room, soccer field, plus the aquatic center’s four-lane pool, water slide, splash pad, lazy river and vortex. Outside, there will be a soccer field, a track and a dog park.
Fairview Height food and beverage tax
Fairview Heights Mayor Mark Kupsky says the city’s food and beverage tax is a reliable source of revenue to make annual payments on the planned recreation complex. Here’s a table of revenue from the tax since 2011. Revenue has increased every year until 2016, when it decreased 15 percent.
Food and beverage tax revenue
Source: City of Fairview Heights