Education

Cool, cooler: Work starts on pools, ice rinks in O’Fallon for McKendree U

File video: Ice rink, pool part of McKendree rec plex near O’Fallon

McKendree University President James Dennis in 2015 talks about the new recreation complex being built between the university's home in Lebanon and O'Fallon. The complex opened in February 2017.
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McKendree University President James Dennis in 2015 talks about the new recreation complex being built between the university's home in Lebanon and O'Fallon. The complex opened in February 2017.

Two pools, two regulation ice rinks, a large fitness facility, a concert venue seating 3,500, gym space and tracks will all be available by this time next year since ground was broken Thursday on the McKendree Metro Rec Plex.

McKendree University President James Dennis said said the university has a long-term lease on the complex but it is being developed with private dollars as part of a larger development that will benefit the region. It is at the intersection of U.S. Highway 50 and Scott-Troy Road in O’Fallon.

“This is going to be an anchor that draws restaurants, hotels, shops and all sorts of other businesses to the area,” Dennis said. “It’s going to be very exciting to see what happens here over the next few years.”

The 45-acre business and office complex on the site is called the Four Points Commercial Development. Dean Oelze of S.I Strategy LLC is the lead developer.

The athletic complex will include two National Hockey League-sized ice rinks, an aquatic center with a competition swimming pool and a recreational swimming pool, a fitness facility, a walking track and a half-court basketball facility. Oelze said it is expected to be capable of hosting NCAA sports tournaments, amateur ice hockey games and will seat 3,500 people for concerts.

“After more than two years of planning and design, it is with great enthusiasm that we are beginning the construction of the McKendree Metro Rec Plex,” Oelze said.

McKendree will create or expand swimming, diving, water polo and hockey sports programs because of the building. Dennis said that will result in 100 or more students attending the school each year.

The general public can attend events in the new building and purchase memberships to use its 25,000-square-foot exercise facility.

O’Fallon Ward 4 Alderman Herb Roach called the rec center “the most significant commercial development to happen on the east side of O’Fallon in years.”

“We’re very enthusiastic about it because this is all very well planned out by the developer,” Roach said. “This isn’t being done on a whim. It’s all going to be first class. A real plus for the community.”

Roach agreed that the new rec plex, just a short drive down Illinois 158 from Interstate 64, will be a magnet for additional development.

In addition to giving the university a state of the art building for its athletic programs, Dennis said the complex will give McKendree University a very public face.

The school’s campus is tucked away from main roads in a Lebanon neighborhood about four miles from the rec plex site. The new building, with McKendree’s name featured prominently on the facade, will be at a major intersection.

“That visibility is one of the main reasons we wanted to do this,” Dennis said.

While Dennis joked that he wished the rec center could be done in about three weeks, he said it is expected to take about a year to build, opening in the fall of 2016.

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