O'Fallon Progress

City looks to partner with other cities for rec center

O’Fallon Parks and Recreation Director Mary Hutchinson said if a community recreation center is built in O’Fallon, it would be developed to serve the local residents first and foremost.

“Therefore, the city boundaries have been identified as the primary service area,” she said.

However, it also understood that because of market and lack of other facilities that such a center would draw individuals from outside the city’s boundaries, Ballard and King Associates stated in its feasibility report released on Friday of last week.

As such a larger secondary service area has been developed for this project. That Secondary Service Area is roughly a 20-minute drive time from O’Fallon. Primary Service Areas can be defined as the distance people will travel on a regular basis (a minimum of once a week) to utilize a facility or its programs. Use by individuals outside of this area will be much more limited and will focus more on specialized activities or events.

Service areas can vary in size with the types of components included in a facility. A center with active elements with a pool, weight cardiovascular equipment area, gym and track will have a larger service area than a more passively oriented facility. Specialized facilities such as a sports field house, ice arena or significant competitive aquatic venue will have larger service areas that make them more of a regional destination.

Another factor impacting service area is the facility’s proximity to major thoroughfares. Other factors affecting the use as it relates to driving distance are the presence of alternative service providers in the service area, B&K stated in its report.

“Alternative service providers can have an effect upon membership, daily admissions and the associated penetration rates for programs and services,” B & K’s report stated.

B & K also compared the median age and household income levels with the national number is important as both factors are primary determiners of participation in recreation activities. The lower the age, the higher the participation rates are for most activities. The level of participation also increases as the median income level goes up, B&K noted.

The median age in the city and the state are only slightly lower than the national number, and the Secondary Service Area is only slightly higher than the national number.

“The median age points to the presence of families with children along with aging adults and retirees. Therefore, as a facility program moves toward design, it will be important to look at this as a multi-generational facility with appeal to all ages,” B&K stated.

Public Input Summary

Last November, B & K met with various stakeholders and focus groups about the development of an indoor community recreation center..

From these meeting, B & K gleamed:

▪ The city department heads felt that there is a need within the community for a facility of this nature. There is also a commitment to running the service in a business-like manner. There is an expectation that the operation of the facility will recuperate 100 percent of its operating costs and more.

▪ The current seniors living in O’Fallon felt that their current needs are met within the community. It is possible that the current senior facility and a proposed senior facility will address needs of the senior population. With that in mind, it must be remembered that “seniors” are changing in their orientation in that they stay active longer, and the “traditional” senior center model does not always apply.

The current recreation staff’s mindset is much the same as that of the city department heads. “There is an acute need for gymnasium space and a lack of leisure water that serves multiple populations within the community. The other lack of space the staff identified in discussion is for indoor walking opportunities,” B & K stated.

“The staff did express concerns with “getting into” the fitness business but also understand that component and other drives membership which is a significant portion of cost recovery.”

The health care providers group is currently in flux, which is to say there are potential mergers in the future and new facilities opening, B & K noted in its report.

“There was an interest in a partnership, but more from the standpoint of programs, not from the perspective of capital to go toward bricks and mortar.”

But the local church leaders recognize the lack of gymnasium space as some of them receive frequent requests for their spaces. They also had interest in larger gathering spaces for the community, a place where the community could come together and a place for the youth of the community, B & K stated in its report.

No one was available, however, to meet that day from the daycare and preschool providers. However, in follow-up conversation, there is grave concern from this special interest group with regards to the city getting into this business, B&K’s report stated in its report.

Key Take Away Comments

A common topic of discussion from most groups was the location of the facility. Many groups assumed that the new facility would be located in or adjacent to the sports park.

Those that did not have a pre-determined location before meeting did have concerns about the impact of traffic and parking regardless of location, Hutchinson said.

The topic of cost surfaced multiple times on multiple levels, according to B & K. How much is it going to cost to build? How much will it cost to operate? How much will it cost to attend? These were typical questions and appropriate given the depth and breadth of discussion. O’Fallon is an engaged community that wants to know how money is spent. One of the groups that was most concerned about cost was the youth group.

There was an over-arching consensus that the facility needed to be for everyone, B&K’s report revealed. In being for everyone individuals wanted to be sure that there were portions of the facility that were free to use without paying membership or admission. There was also interest in making the facility as multi-generational as possible to reach the full community.

B & K noted there was also some distrust from city from residents.

“The distrust was evident in the public meeting where multiple individuals felt there was no need for an indoor community recreation center and that the city had predetermined this project to move forward,” B & K stated.