Although his request to take $10,000 from a cell tower contract windfall to be used to study the creation of a community recreation center failed to gain the approval of aldermen, Mayor Herb Adams said it is time for the city to begin a serious study on the issue.
“We’ve been talking about a recreation center for 30 years,” Adams said. “I’m ready to do it.”
The mayor says it will take much more than the city to plan and build a recreation center that could sustain itself, but he believes the time is right to get serious about the project.
“It will take the whole community,” he said.
The reason for identifying 2014 as the year to delve into building a recreation center can be credited to a change in the way civic groups and the city interact with others in recent years, the mayor said.
Speaking at the Jan. 21 board of aldermen meeting, Adams said since the groups in Pacific have started working together the city has made great strides in providing activities for citizens.
“We did not always work well together,” he said. “There was a lot of finger pointing going on here.”
But success of activities such as Cruise Night and the recent rodeo indicates that the city and local groups have outgrown their sibling rivalry, he said, and can work together to create cultural events that benefit citizens and visitors.
“This is what we’re going to have to do if we’re going to become the community we want to be,” Adams said.
Although he has no specific plan in mind, the mayor said the starting point is agreeing that the city and its citizens want a family recreation and/or community center.
It would be up to the public to decide whether the community would want a large recreation complex like The Point in Ballwin, or a combination indoor, outdoor athletic facility like the one in the works in Lawrence, Kan.
The residents who would come forward to help with the study would bring their own ideas, the mayor said.
A community center that offers recreation for families could be the best bet for the city to attract new families, according to Preston Smith, Business Information Services (BIS), who completed a demographics study for the Meramec Valley School District in 2012.
Of all the things that could affect the quality of life and lure new families with school-age children in to the community, none are more obvious than a community recreation center.
“This is one thing that could turn things around,” Smith said. “You need something that would get families to say, ‘Wow, this is a good place for families.’ ”
Smith suggested that the school district and city could team up to float a bond issue to fund construction of a center, but Adams said before funding he wants to flesh out the type of center the community would want and support.
Pacific Park Board President Stephen Flannery III said he agrees with the mayor that the time is right to define the scope of a recreation center that would serve the citizens, but he would like to see an incremental approach.
“We need to take this one step at a time,” he said.
Flannery, who is in his sixth year as park board president, would like to see the city establish a legitimate parks and recreation department — the entity that in most cases operates recreation centers — with meaningful funding in the annual budget.
The city already has a capital improvement tax that provides funds that could be used for park facilities.
A park tax could provide funds to operate a parks and recreation department, but asking voters to approve a new tax would bring its own need for a study to develop the kind of information that would persuade voters to approve a tax.
“With a good plan of how monies would be spent, voters could be asked to approve a parks tax,” Flannery said.
The park board president also believes that city officials may be overlooking an obvious source of funding for parks.
“We have several good size corporations in our community, and corporations looking at relocating here,” Flannery said. “They could be encouraged to become good corporate citizens and contribute to amenities like a community center.”
Better parks and better recreation equipment bring more people. This can be seen, Flannery said, in the way improvements in the parks in the past few years resulted in more users.
“After new equipment in the children’s playground, resurfacing the tennis courts and basketball courts, we see more and more people using the parks,” he said.
When it comes to a full-blown community center, Flannery says two major criteria must be met. First the scope of the center would have to be relevant over time and there would have to be adequate funds to operate and maintain the center once it’s built.
“There would be no point in building too small,” Flannery said.
“We’d need a center that would be relevant for 10 years from now and be capable of being expanded, and it should be relevant in the marketplace, with the amenities seen in other community centers like indoor outdoor swimming pools, running tracks, basketball courts and meeting rooms.”