Dozens of trees have been cut down along Interstate 64 in Fairview Heights, so now it's easy to see progress on the city’s new recreation complex.
Workers have poured the basement/foundation walls and are now backfilling them, according to Project Manager Ryan Savage, of Holland Construction in Swansea.
"That will allow us to get started on the first-floor construction," he said. "The elevator-shaft walls are also being constructed. The structural masonry block walls will begin in the next three weeks."
Holland broke ground in November. The company expects to complete the 58,000-square-foot complex on Bunkum Road in time for an early-spring opening in 2019, when the city will be celebrating its 50th anniversary. There are 20 to 30 people working at the construction site, and that number will grow.
"We're battling the weather right now," Savage said. "It keeps raining on us, but we're moving along."
In another development, a name for the complex has been finalized by Mayor Mark Kupsky, Director of Parks and Recreation Angela Beaston and other staff. It will be called “The REC."
“I couldn’t be more proud of what we’re doing and the commitment that the alderman have made to stand behind this project,” Kupsky said. "And the public has been overwhelmingly supportive. ... People are getting very excited. They keep asking me, 'When is it going to open? When is it going to open?'"
Fairview Heights residents will get a discount at The REC, but membership will be open to anyone from the surrounding area. The complex also will offer short-term passes for visitors.
“An independent firm conducted a feasibility study, and it determined that this center would support not only people from the metro-east, but also downtown St. Louis because of its proximity,” Kupsky said.
The complex will cost an estimated $21 million, including $17 million for construction and another $4 million for land, architectural fees, equipment and furniture.
"The city has secured bonds in the amount of $18.5 million," Kupsky said. "They will be paid back through our food-and-beverage tax, as Fairview Heights does not currently have any city property taxes."
This week, officials offered more details about The REC's amenities and services. The centerpiece will be an aquatic center with a four-lane lap pool, a splash pad, water slide, lazy river and open-swim pool with a “zero-depth” entry to allow easy access by all ages and abilities.
Other indoor features include a gymnasium with basketball and volleyball courts; a walking track; a fitness center with separate rooms for Pilates, yoga and other classes; a multipurpose room; party and meeting rooms; ping-pong and pool tables; and a child-care center.
"We'll also have a climbing area called 'Clip 'n Climb,'" Beaston said. "It's not a climbing wall. It's a totally different concept. It's more of a fun thing. It's recreational climbing."
Outside, The REC property will have a walking path, a running track, a soccer field, a dog park and a trail around the perimeter.
Holland is no stranger to large projects. It built Market Place shopping center in Fairview Heights, Swansea Schnucks Plaza, St. Clair Auto Mall in O’Fallon, Fairview Hotel and Conference Center, Gateway Grizzlies and Southern Illinois Miners baseball stadiums, Liberty Middle School in Edwardsville and YMCAs in downtown Belleville, Waterloo and Edwardsville.
"(A recreation complex is) something the city talked about for a long time, but they hadn't done anything about it," said Kupsky, who pushed for it after being elected mayor three years ago. "I thought it was a project that was important to the community."
The city bought more than 30 acres at 9950 Bunkum Road from Grant School District 110 for $650,000 with the understanding that its students could use the track. The land hasn’t been undermined like many properties in the area, the mayor said. Mine-subsistence damage caused the U.S. Ice Sports Complex in Fairview Heights to close in 2012.
The REC project is as much about providing a social hub as it is about exercise and recreation, officials say. The city is home to St. Clair Square mall and dozens of shopping centers, but it has no town square or high school.
“To have something like this ... It's going to be very exciting for our community," Beaston said. "We don't have a central gathering place, and that's what this will be."