O'Fallon Progress

Ballard King says development of an indoor community rec center is something O’Fallon should pursue

The development of an indoor community recreation center is something O’Fallon should pursue, a Highlands Ranch, Col. firm has recommended to the Parks and Recreation Committee.

This was just one of many recommendations Ballard King & Associates made in its 131-page feasibility study released by the city on Friday.

The aldermanic Parks and Recreation committee on Monday discussed the report for about 45 minutes. The committee is expected to continue discussing the study, before it makes any formal recommendation to the city council.

B & K made a number of recommendations in its study, including:

▪ Given the financial goals of the operation, it will be important to have a significant allocation of square footage for fitness and exercise, B & K stated in its report. This space should include area for weight and cardio training along with group exercise spaces. These components will be key drivers in membership numbers.

▪ Gymnasium space is currently at a premium within the City as such the facility should also include at minimum a double gymnasium with elevated track with potentially a fourth court. This space should also include an elevated walking track.

▪ B & K would recommend the inclusion of an indoor leisure pool with three to four lap lanes incorporated into the design. Given the lack of interest from the high school and the development of a new indoor 50 meter pool at the McKendree Retro Plex now under construction at U.S. 50 and Scott Troy Road, it does not make sense to include a competitive aquatic component, B&K’s study stated.

Hutchinson said the proposed rec center should be designed to be multipurpose and expandable, especially with large “box” spaces, such as gymnasiums and meeting rooms.

As a first step of the feasibility process B & K has assembled a summary of the basic demographic characteristics of the identified service areas along with recreation and leisure participation standards as produced by the National Sporting Goods Association, also included is participation information provided by the National Endowment of the Arts.

But before any rec center is built in O’Fallon, Parks and Recreation Director Mary Jean Hutchinson said the city will need to find at least one partner to make the project more financially affordable.

Hutchinson said the recreation center could cost anywhere between $15 and $40 million to build.

The city is also interested in finding a donor (or donors) who might be willing to make a donation to offset the project’s cost.

The city has also held preliminary discussions with Shiloh and Fairview Heights officials about partnering with them on the proposed venture.

Fairview Heights is also planning to build a new $12 million recreation center that will open in time for the town’s 50-year anniversary in 2019. Location is unknown until the end of 2017.

Mayor Mark Kupsky said it hasn’t been determined yet what, exactly, will go into their building. A committee has been appointed to determine what amenities will be available. Possibilities include an indoor swimming pool, an indoor splash pad, a walking track and fitness equipment.

“This is something residents have said they’d be interested in for some time,” Kupsky said. “We’ve been working on it for a while, and we’ve reached the point where we’re ready to come out to the public with our plans.”

Kupsky said the facility will be open to both city residents and people from outside Fairview Heights with a fee scale that is cheaper for people who live in town. It will also offer short-term rates for people passing though the city, staying at one of its hotels with weekly, monthly and single-day passes.

What wasn’t mentioned in Fairview Heights plans was the possibility of a new ice rink.

Kupsky said there hasn’t been any recent contact with owners of the ice complex. But he said the taxes and mortgage on the property continue to be paid, and the city has never been told that plans to repair or replace the building have been abandoned. He said that recently owners had been doing the basics to maintain the property.

Often, it takes years to resolve an insurance claim on a property struck by mine subsidence because insurers don’t pay out on a claim before they’re sure that settling — and future damage — has come to an end.

While there are some fitness providers in the area, it is the opinion of B & K that the market is not currently saturated.

“As such the development of an indoor community recreation center is something that the city of O’Fallon should pursue,” B & K stated in its report.

Given the financial goals of the O’Fallon operation, it will be important to have a significant allocation of square footage for fitness and exercise.

B & K is recommending this space include area:

▪ For weight and cardio training along with group exercise spaces. These components will be key drivers in membership numbers, according to Hutchinson.

▪ Gymnasium space is currently at a premium within the city as such the facility should also include at minimum a double gymnasium with elevated track with potentially a fourth court. This space should also include an elevated walking track, Hutchinson said.

▪ B & K would recommend the inclusion of an indoor leisure pool with 3-4 lap lanes incorporated into the design.

Given the lack of interest from the high school and the development of a new indoor 50M pool nearby at the McKendree Metro Rec Plex now under construction, at the corner of U.S. 50 and Scott Troy Road, it does not make sense to include a competitive aquatic component, B & K stated.

B & K said the O’Fallon facility, if constructed, will serve as a “hub” of the community and as such it should also include meeting room spaces that can double as classrooms for various programs. The entryway to the facility and lobby area should also be a focus and great a gathering space.

“If the city moves forward with the project, the facility should serve as “home” for the recreation department. As such there should be adequate office space included for current staff and expanded staff,” B & K’s report.

Among B & K’s other findings:

▪ There will need to be additional staff members added to the organizational chart to manage a facility of this nature.

▪ The facility should be designed to be multipurpose and expandable, especially with large “box” spaces, such as gymnasiums and meeting rooms.

▪ As a first step of the feasibility process B & K has assembled a summary of the basic demographic characteristics of the identified service areas along with recreation and leisure participation standards as produced by the National Sporting Goods Association, also included is participation information provided by the National Endowment of the Arts.

Last fall, O’Fallon, entered into a contract with B & K to complete a feasibility study for an indoor community recreation center.

The primary components of its study include; market analysis, public input in the form of stakeholder meetings and public meeting, partnership assessment, program validation and an operations plan. An over-riding goal of this facility is for it to operating in a business-like fashion covering 100 percent of operating expenses and a portion of debt service, Hutchinson said.

Among the things, B & K identified in its report included market constraints, market opportunities, service areas, community center benchmarks, public input survey and key takeaway comment

Market constraints

B & K identified a number of market constraints if the Rec Center were built in O’Fallon, including:

▪ Most community centers that operate on a break-even cost-neutral model have a population of more than 50,000 individuals and are between 70,000-80,000 square feet. The population within the primary service area falls short of the 50,000 number while the secondary service area significantly exceeds that number, Hutchinson said.

▪ The city wants this facility to operate in a “business-like” fashion and to potentially retire debt service within their budget. These financial goals are going to drive facility components, rate structure, etc. The other challenge the operation may face is the balance between membership, program and maintaining drop-in recreation as a hallmark program of public recreation facilities, Hutchinson said.

▪ There are other service providers in the area; both private and non-profit, these providers may present challenges in the development of a publicly funded facility.

▪ While those are heavy users of municipal recreation facilities, there is also a large population of 55+ age individuals in both areas, 24.4 percent in primary and 27.4 percent in secondary. The challenge is the overall balance of facility use and integration of generations. While the result is very positive, there can be challenges reaching said result.

▪ The population for O’Fallon proper is projected to show moderate growth while the secondary service area is expecting a decrease. The secondary service includes communities 20 minutes from O’Fallon and Shiloh, which the city considers its primary service area.

There are several developments in and around O’Fallon that could have a positive impact on the population numbers, including the new McKendree Metro Rec Plex, which is expected to open this fall. The O’Fallon YMCA is also expected to embark on a capital campaign shortly on its building.

▪ Some of that participation is now taking place with the City of O’Fallon Parks & Recreation Department, but a portion may be participating elsewhere.

Market opportunities

But B & K believes the O’Fallon market offers a number of opportunities, which could help support building a Rec Center in O’Fallon.

The city has a number of potential sites that could be used if the Rec Center were constructed.

But B & K has recommended to the city that it not build the Rec Center at Family Sports Park.

Among the market opportunities B & K identified in its study, include:

▪ The lower median age in both the primary and secondary service areas points to the presence of families and children. Those are primary users of indoor recreation facilities.

▪ The lower median age also underlines the military personnel presence from Scott Air Force Base, which could also be potential users of indoor facilities. There is close to 40 percent of households in both the primary (39.5 percent) and secondary (40.7 percent) service area that have individuals in the 25-54 age range.

▪ The median household income in the primary service area is greater than the secondary, state and national numbers. The income level indicates the ability to pay for entertainment and recreation services. It is also important to note that both the cost of living and current spending rates are consistent with the income level.

▪ Based upon the market potential numbers for adult participation in activities it indicates an active population.

▪ While other service providers are a concern, in visiting with those providers they are challenged in keeping up with the demand given their current facilities.

▪ The demographics and participation statistics are such that it is the belief of B & K that an indoor community recreation facility would be successful within the primary service area.

Mark Hodapp: 618-239-2688 or mhodapp@bnd.com.

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