A multi-purpose community center and sports complex is proposed for North U.S. 63 in Houston.

At the City of Houston’s council meeting last Tuesday, members heard a proposal for a major multi-purpose community center and sports complex on Highway 63 north, adjacent to the Houston Area Chamber of Commerce fairgrounds.

The idea is being spearheaded by Houston Optimist Club and was presented to the council by club representative Chad Dzurick, who showed diagrams of the proposed project’s two-story physical fitness building, described expected expenses and potential revenues, and explained ways the project would be funded.

According to Dzurick, the center’s gymnasium facility would include an approximately 31,000 square-foot lower floor large enough to house three regulation size high-school basketball floors, and also feature several classrooms and meeting rooms, spacious areas for fitness equipment and classes, and ample bathroom space. The upper floor would include a 1/8-mile walking track, as well as more classrooms, meeting rooms, fitness areas and bathrooms.

The indoor facility would also be equipped with a large kitchen and concession area, and a sizable lobby.

The outdoor portion of the center would feature several soccer fields and a softball complex, made possible through a potential deal with the Houston Area Chamber of Commerce that is in the discussion stage, that would allow for utilization of open land behind the community building at the fairgrounds.

Dzurick said the cost of the project is expected to be about $2.2 million. Funds would come from three primary sources: a $1.2 million USDA Rural Development loan, $500,000 obtained through tax credits provided by the Missouri Department of Economic Development’s Neighborhood Assistance Program (NAP), and a capital campaign seeking to raise the remaining $500,000 through donations by private companies, organizations and individuals.

“This is still totally in the planning stages and there are still a lot of considerations that still have to be looked at,” Dzurick said. “And there are also some other funding sources were looking into.”

Should the idea come to fruition, the Optimist Club would run its after school youth programs at the community center, and the city would turn over operation of its recreational programs and city pool to the club (while continuing to maintain the pool). In turn, the city would provide the Optimist Club up to $50,000 a year to cover costs of managing community sports programs, and $15,000 to pay for utilities. Dzurick said similar arrangements exist and function successfully in other Ozarks communities.

“We’re primarily focused on children, and by association, their parents as well,” he said. “But basically there’s not a person in the community this would not effect.”

Some of the design ideas for the indoor portion of the project have been taken from the complex in Rolla known as The Center.

“Minus the pool portion,” Dzurick said. “We’ve had discussions with them, and they’ve indicated that minus the pool, that facility is turning a good profit.”

One of the expected benefits of having such a complex in Houston is that it would allow the city to host large basketball, soccer, and softball tournaments and events, which could be of significant financial benefit to the community.

“That’s something we don’t have the ability to do right now,” Dzurick said. “That can bring a lot of people into town, and they spend money at restaurants, stores, gas stations and lots of other places.”

Dzurick also cited the Optimist Club’s need for more space than exists in its current downtown location, due in large part to the growth of the club’s youth programs.

Houston mayor Don Tottingham said the city is supportive of the idea, and is forming a committee to take a closer look at whether the numbers add up.

“The city is excited about it, actually,” Tottingham said. “There are a couple of things we have to work out, as far as the parks and recreation part, but this could really be a great addition to Houston. The proposed building would have lots of meeting space that we don’t have right now, and it would be really nice to have that available.

“And it would be great to have all the facilities for our sports programs in the same place, and having all those courts and fields would attract a lot of people, which brings a lot of business into town. I appreciate Chad’s leadership, and the Optimist Club for trying to put something like this together.”

Tottingham is optimistic that the center could in the end actually save the city money.

“I think we might find that we’ll be able to pay them and even save a little bit of money above that,” he said. “It’s certainly only in the planning stages right now, but we’ll be looking at all the figures and break it all down to see exactly where we’re at before we make a commitment on how much we’ll pay.

“The city council was very much in favor of the initial introduction to this, and we’re going to fully support the Optimist Club in any way we can to help them go forward with this.”

Tottingham believes the project could potentially bring improvement to more than just facilities.

‘The improved facilities should make our programs and teams better, and that’s great for everyone – especially the kids,” he said. “But this is not just for kids – a lot of adults would benefit as well. I’m sure in the daytime it would be mostly adults who use it.”

Dzurick said the center is still at least a couple of years away from becoming a reality.

“There’s still a lot of work to be done before this can happen,” he said. “Right now we’re needing to get some of this operating information together – like running the programs, how much money would be coming in, and that the land is all taken care of – so we can start turning in applications for grants and things like that. And the capital campaign is a big thing, because a lot of grants from private foundations are based on matching funds.

“But we’ve done a lot of research with different groups on how to organize and run the operation with as little cost as possible.”

Should support for the idea grow and funding fall into place, Dzurick believes the center could have a profound effect on Houston and Texas County.

“We’ve had a lot of positive feedback so far,” he said. “I think there’s real interest in the community for something like this and it’s something everyone would benefit from.

“But there are a lot of organizations involved and there’s still a lot to be done to get everything coordinated with all of them. There’s the city, the chamber, and of course our organization, but we’ve got the Lions Club that will be helping with fundraising, and we’ve had positive reaction from the school district, but we have much more to talk about with them. And then there’s the hospital, and all the things they’re doing.

“This is truly a community project that requires a lot of work by a lot of people.”

The city council was very much in favor of the initial introduction to this, and we’re going to fully support the Optimist Club in any way we can to help them go forward with this.”

PDF: Second floor

PDF: Ground floor

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