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Ferguson Officials Hope New Community Center Has Unifying Effect

Camille Phillips/St. Louis Public Radio

A new community center is opening in Ferguson, less than three miles from where Michael Brown was shot by police on Aug. 9.

Originally a Roman Catholic school and parish, the community center has a gym, an exercise room and sports fields, as well as a computer center, a game room for teens and several meeting rooms.

At the ribbon-cutting ceremony Friday morning, Mayor James Knowles said he hopes the opening of the community center will help bring residents together. 

Credit Camille Phillips/St. Louis Public Radio
A view of the outside of the new Ferguson Community Center.

“We want to make sure that all parts of our community feel attended to, and that’s one of the reasons why this was a great location. It’s actually fairly accessible to the bus routes along West Florissant,” Knowles said.

Ferguson City Council member Mark Byrne echoed Knowles, saying that with all of the discord after the death of Brown, the timing of the community center opening couldn’t be better.

“We need a place that we can call home. We need a place that every citizen can call home,” Byrne said. The center is located in ward 1, which he represents.

To use the indoor facilities, Ferguson residents will either have to pay a yearly fee of $85 for an adult and $50 for a senior or youth. A family membership costs $165.  

People also have the option to pay admission one day at a time. That costs $3 for an adult and $1 for a senior or a child that lives in the city.

Byrne and Knowles both said the cost is reasonable.

Credit Camille Phillips/St. Louis Public Radio
Don and Ann Chisholm try out the seating in the teen game room. The couple are long-time Ferguson residents, and Ann coordinated efforts to pass the 2012 tax increase that paid for renovations to the community center.

“It’s substantially less than any other exercise facility anywhere around here,” Byrne said.

Knowles said that to access the outdoor sports fields, residents would just need to make a one-time purchase of $5 for an I.D. card, and that membership, be it for a day or a year, covered almost everything inside the center.

“One thing I was very adamant about is that you have access to this facility when you come here,” Knowles said. “So there’s not going to be an extra fee to use the weight room and the fitness center. There’s not going to be an extra fee to use the computer…one thing we don’t want to do is nickel and dime people.”

He did say that if they offer special classes such as yoga there would be an additional fee to pay for the instructors.  

The city purchased the land for $1.5 million three years ago, and funded renovations with a tax increase passed in 2012. The renovations cost $4 million.

The grand opening celebration of the community center is scheduled for Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at 1050 Smith Ave. in Ferguson.

Follow Camille Phillips on Twitter: @cmpcamille.