What a proud day it will be in St. Louis when the ribbon is cut and the curtain is raised on the fabulous $19.5 million O'Fallon Park Recreation Center in North City. That day is right around the corner. The 79,000 square foot facility situated on 13 acres of land will provide city families with a first class gymnasium, indoor track, fitness center, aquatic facilities, and community meeting space. Along with its sister facility in Carondelet Park, it represents the first city recreation centers constructed since 1971.
This didn't happen by accident. In 2006, the Board of Aldermen enacted legislation that placed on a citywide ballot a proposition that would devote a one-eighth of one cent sales tax increase to support the recreation centers. Then more than 60 percent of voters supported it.
I lobbied for the first and campaigned for the second. No initiative I have pursued as mayor have given me a greater personal sense of satisfaction and excitement.
Since then, we have enlisted the aid top local engineering, architecture and construction firms to work with our Parks, Recreation and Forestry staff and the community to design and build a center that serves families and children with physically attractive, accessible and durable recreational and fitness facilities. It also meets best practices in energy and environmental design.
Beyond the bricks and mortar, we have worked hard to ensure the facility will be well managed and maintained, that it will be financially stable and affordable to an economically diverse community, and above all that children will have opportunities to participate in productive, fun, closely-supervised activities.
Here, again, major talent from this community - including from the YMCA and Herbert Hoover Boys and Girls Club - will be helping us accomplish these goals.
One of the things that impressed me as a kid growing up St. Louis were the city's magnificent public and parochial school buildings. These, to me, were cathedrals of learning. They conveyed to me, as a child, that grown ups cared deeply about my future.
The O'Fallon Park Recreation Center meets this lofty standard. Wait until you see it.
We know from the history of public education in St. Louis, though, and we recently have seen recently through some petty squabbling over the final details of the O'Fallon Rec Center, how adult problems and politics can get in the way children's progress - and sometimes even child's play.
The much bigger story about the O'Fallon Park and Carondelet Recreation Centers is how grown ups have come together from across this region to show St. Louis' families and children how much we care for their futures.