The newly expanded and remodeled Boys & Girls Club now can provide Pierre residents with some room for indoor recreation, a civic element said to be long in short supply since the downtown City Auditorium was closed in May 2011, just before the historic flood.
The need for such space was the topic of city government for several years under former Mayor Laurie Gill, who ramrodded a plan — through a task force, then through the commission and a public hearing process — to build a $14.5 million recreation and events center on 16 acres of donated land off Garfield Avenue in the northeast corner of town and have it open in 2019.
Gill often cited the need to replace the recreational space lost when the 80-year-old City Auditorium went dark. It was demolished in 2014, leaving the green acreage between the old City Hall downtown and Sioux Avenue.
But despite the years-long process, city voters rejected the idea of a $14.5 million rec/events center by a wide margin in the November 2016 election and Gill soon after announced she would not run for re-election in 2017.
Longtime City Commissioner Steve Harding was elected mayor in June 2017 and as soon as he took office in July he announced — among other things — a plan to earmark $2 million in city funds to the Boys & Girls Club to build new and renovate its current building near Hyde Stadium.
The club, which has been seeing about 145 boys and girls a day, now has space for about 225 a day in the building completed this summer. The Club, which is sort of under the nonprofit leadership umbrella of Capital Area Counseling Services, keeps growing and was responsible for raising about $2 million toward the $4.4 million building project. The city has owned the land and buildings where the Club has been located for 30 years; before that for decades it was in the old City Auditorium.
The close ties with the city meant it made sense for the Club to build its new facility with the idea in mind of providing lots of space and service to the community at wide, Harding has said.
This week, City Recreation Superintendent Mindy Cheap told the City Commission the new facility — apart from the Boys & Girls Club use — is open for business under a new schedule of rental fees for basketball and soccer leagues, sports parties, floor hockey, arts and crafts parties.
Commissioner Jamie Huizenga wondered: Was there demand for such use before the new remodeling? And with the new fees, will a lot of people start renting space from the city there?
“I’m pretty sure it’s going to be pretty busy, because the schools are not going to let people (as in adults looking for indoor recreation) use their gyms,” Cheap said.
The new facility was designed with greater use than just the constantly growing club, which uses it during the weekdays. It has public restrooms, a concession area and an entrance to the improved gym separate from the club.
Cheap said Nerf wars and activities using big inflatables for human foosball and giant soccer darts will soon be available and city staff can be on hand to help. The activities can be part of birthday parties for up to 20 kids at once or groups of adults.
Other new additions by the city are also for rent by the recreation department, including the new community room in the Griffin Park storm shelter, the Pierre Native Arboretum Pavilion and Wedding Arbor, the amphitheater at Steamboat Park and city sports fields, Cheap said.
The fees just pay the cost of keeping up and staff the facilities to serve the community and are not designed to be a new revenue stream for the city, according to Cheap.
This recreational facility is just one of the city properties that are available for rent. Another new one is the new Griffin Park Storm Shelter’s community room. Still available in the new rent schedule are: the Pierre Native Arboretum Pavilion and Wedding Arbor, the Steamboat Park Amphitheater, and a number of City-owned sports fields. Earlier this year, the City formalized its reservation process and the fees structures for those facilities.
Fees vary for weekends, for out-of-town groups and nonprofits. For details and to reserve a time and space, go online to www.cityofpierre.org or call city hall at 605-773-7407.