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The Jefferson City Board of Adjustment unanimously gave approval for Special Olympics Missouri (SOMO) to build its Training for Life Campus in an area not zoned for such a facility.

Mark Musso, the president of SOMO, and some of the professionals who will bring SOMO's Training for Life Campus to reality next year at 2221 Christy Drive, showed up at the Jefferson City Board of Adjustment early Tuesday morning armed with every detail about their project. And, for the first time, Musso put the new edifice and its environs in a global perspective.

The board gave Musso and his colleagues quick and unanimous approval for the conditional-use permit. It will allow the construction in a C2 (general commercial) zoning, which normally is not allowed for such a "commercially operated outdoor recreational facility," according to the board's staff report.

While the board's approval was important, the meeting served a larger purpose in providing Musso an opportunity to put the Training for Life Campus in greater perspective.

"SOMO is thrilled to locate this world-class training campus in Jefferson City," he said.

"I have personally toured other facilities, and this will be one of a kind and clearly the finest in the 175 countries with Special Olympics programs. While some of them have sports venues for training, we will have the only campus that offers healthy athletes screening rooms equipped for health care professionals to conduct health screenings on each and every athlete.

Musso said the free screenings include vision, hearing, teeth, feet, physical therapy, health promotion and sports physicals.

"Many other U.S. and national Special Olympics programs have expressed great interest in visiting our campus to model similar programming in their locales," he added.

The zoning change approval is essentially a final step before dirt is dug, concrete is poured and steel is erected next spring on the 16.5-acre site on the east side of Christy Drive, three quarters of a mile south of Ellis Boulevard on property currently used as a rock quarry.

The 44,000-square-foot structure will be complemented with a variety of outdoor recreational fields, providing space for soccer, a four-lane track, the long jump, a 100-meter straight-away, golf skills space, horseshoe pits, the shot put, a tennis competition area, softball fields (in a space called the "Miracle Field"), boccie courts, a torch run plaza and as-yet unidentified sports.

"A variety of athletic fields are shown at the northern side of the site, and it is understood that the exact arrangement and type of outdoor athletic fields may change over time as Special Olympics works to meet the needs of their customers," said Eric Barron, senior planner in the city's planning and zoning division of the planning and protective services department.

After successfully completing a lengthy $15 million fundraising drive earlier this year, Musso's in-house SOMO team has been honing final construction documents. Team members are Nick Borgmeyer of Simon Oswald Architects of Columbia, SM Wilson Construction of St. Louis, and the principal designer, Paul Samson, P.E., of Central Missouri Professional Services in Jefferson City.

"This project is definitely moving forward," Samson said Tuesday.

Groundbreaking is planned for early spring.

In other business, the Board of Adjustment also approved a request from Don Renkemeyer for a conditional use permit for mini-warehouses and boat storage sheds at 2527 E. McCarty St. The property is part of the Mount Hope Heights Subdivision.

In a brief re-organization election, vice chairwoman Stacey Young was elected chairwoman for a term, which will run through next October. Andrew Hake was elected vice-chairman. Katy Lacy was elevated to board member, replacing Wilma Partee, after serving as an alternate.

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