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Work started on Ste. Gen. water park

After Ste. Genevieve County voters passed a half-cent sales tax last April to be used for capital improvements at the Ste. Genevieve County Community Center, ground was broken earlier this month on the center’s new water park.

The facility that will include an area for toddlers and small children, a lap pool with zipline, diving board and climbing wall, a lazy river and wading pool, four large slides and areas for concessions, parties and locker rooms will hopefully be open to the public in May 2019.

The site of the planned water park can be seen in its entirety in this aerial photo.

The site of the planned water park can be seen in its entirety in this aerial photo.

Ste. Genevieve Community Center Director Brad Arnold said the water park is the “last piece of the puzzle” that he and county officials began assembling five years ago when considering ways to improve the center’s facilities.

“We started with a sort of long-range plan of how we were going to expand, if we were, and what we were going to include,” Arnold said. “At that point we started polling our members and the community through any avenue that we could to get information about what we were missing, what they’d like to see, and what we can do to make recreation in Ste. Genevieve better.”

The original community center was built in 1999, with the original tax levied for its construction extended in 2015. This put the center in a position that would not only allow for continued service to the community, but an expansion that began with an all-inclusive baseball field.

“We built (the ball field) and a parking lot alongside it,” Arnold said. “We always envisioned doing an all-ability, all-inclusive playground to match the vision of the ball field. Once we got a little deeper into it, we built the playground and we knew the next step was another building—we fill our building up with rentals and programs.”

That idea culminated in the Sports Complex Building, the construction of which should be completed in coming weeks. The building includes two basketball courts, batting cages and additional spaces.

In relation to the rest of the Ste. Genevieve County Community Center campus, the planned water park will sit across Progress Parkway.

In relation to the rest of the Ste. Genevieve County Community Center campus, the planned water park will sit across Progress Parkway.

With the new building being completed soon, ground was broken on the water park project last week on the opposite side of Progress Parkway from the main community center campus. Following the passage of the sales tax, Arnold said the county commissioned studies through aquatic design firm Counsilman-Hunsaker and held public meetings to gather the input of county residents.

“Our goal with the feasibility study was to design a park that could operate at a break-even point,” Arnold said. “That’s our goal with everything we do—to keep things cost-effective for our community.”

The project, with a price tag of approximately $10 million, was not unanimously supported by residents. Arnold said the main objection to the project that was heard is that it is not a good use of public funds, though a large focus of the project is not just for tourists, but for the residents of Ste. Genevieve as well.

“A big part of what we wanted to do was to have something for our local people,” he said. “We wanted to have a park that everyone in Ste. Gen and every demographic could use. Another big part of it is the jobs that we’re going to create with this.”

As is the case with many areas, Arnold said the existence of “summer jobs” in Ste. Genevieve is becoming more and more scarce, due to the cost of training new employees for only a few months of work. The water park, however, will bring an estimated 100+ jobs for local teenagers and college students.

By using a sales tax levy to fund the project, Arnold said the county is able to spread the cost out to all people who travel through the county and use its resources, rather than solely depending on the citizens alone.

“We know we can’t support this project with just the people of this town, so that’s why we built something that we feel can bring other people from other towns to use, which we do a great job of already,” Arnold said. “Especially coming off of April and this month, two of our busiest months, we bring in a lot of school groups to use our current facility for field trips and different things.”

Arnold estimated that 20 different schools had come to the Ste. Genevieve Community Center for field trips in April and May, which positively affects tourism as those students may bring their families back at later dates.

The project’s Construction Manager at Risk for the project is Brockmiller Construction, Inc. out of Farmington, with Arnold saying that a focus of the project is to use as many local workers in the subcontracted work throughout the project.

“We’ve started now, and it’s about a ten to twelve month project,” he said. “Our goal is to have the park finished in April and get everyone trained and familiar in May, then depending on weather, our goal would be to open for the summer around Memorial Day. But if the weather next year is like this year, we’ll probably try to be open before then because we’ve had some really good weekends.”

Arnold said that in the last five years, approximately $17 million has been invested into the community center’s campus for the water park, sports complex, tennis courts, baseball field and playground.

A 3D rendering of the Ste. Genevieve County Community Center's water park depicts the facility's four slides, lap pool, children's area and lazy river. The facility is expected to open in a year.

A 3D rendering of the Ste. Genevieve County Community Center’s water park depicts the facility’s four slides, lap pool, children’s area and lazy river. The facility is expected to open in a year.

Workers broke ground last week on the Ste. Genevieve County Community Center Water Park, across Progress Parkway from the main center campus.

Workers broke ground last week on the Ste. Genevieve County Community Center Water Park, across Progress Parkway from the main center campus.

Jacob Scott is a reporter with the Daily Journal. He can be reached at 573-518-3616 or at jscott@dailyjournalonline.com.

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