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story.lead_photo.caption Parks Director Todd Spalding discusses the opening of the new wellness center. Photo by Emil Lippe / News Tribune.

Almost two years to the day since the Jefferson City Parks, Recreation and Forestry Department signed its memorandum of understanding with the Lincoln University Board of Curators, the public will have its first chance to try the glistening basketball courts, computerized fitness center apparatus and other amenities of the University Wellness and Parks Multi-Purpose Recreation Center on the Lincoln campus.

Parks Director Todd Spalding announced to the City Council on Monday night the doors to the center would tentatively open to the public at 6 a.m. Feb. 20 for a so-called soft opening. "The Feb. 20 date is not set in stone, but I feel pretty good with it," Spalding said.

"We are confirming a few things now."

Little more than a month later, on March 24, the still unnamed center will host a grand opening, Spalding said. And he confirmed March 24 "is on the books," urging the members of the Council to save the date and put it in the calendars now.

Most days of the year, the center will open at 6 a.m. and close at 10 p.m.

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Construction on the $11.1 million, three-level, 80,000-square-foot structure was completed last week, Spalding said — right on schedule. Lincoln contributed $4.6 million to the cost, $4 million from a gift, while the Parks provided $6.5 million from savings accumulated from sales tax collections.

The 46,832-square-foot main level features four full-size basketball courts, or six regulation volleyball courts, plus a grand foyer, classrooms, a roomy concession stand, offices and restrooms.

The 23,148-square-foot second level is home to an elevated walking or jogging track, plus computerized equipment all Fitbit and smartphone compatible, as well as large, soundproof community rooms, classrooms and an entertainment center opening to a spacious deck overlooking Dwight T. Reed Stadium.

And the 9,828-square-foot lower level, which opens to the stadium and its track, will be exclusive home to the Blue Tiger football and national champion track and field teams. The area is still unfinished as those details await funding approval by the Lincoln Board of Curators on Thursday.

"Jan. 31 had been our target, and the keys were turned over to us on Jan. 31 with construction complete," Spalding reported to the Council Monday. "We're hoping to move in there this week. Our staff is starting to get anxious and they've been packing up their belongings to move over there. We think we'll be ready and have staff trained on all of the equipment by the 20th how to put down basketball goals and where to turn on lights. Things like that."

Eleven members of the Parks executive staff, now headquartered in the City Annex on Monroe Street in downtown Jefferson City, will be moving to the center, Spalding said. Two others will be shifted to existing updated offices in the Parks' maintenance operation on Ellis Boulevard. The director and two other management staffers will remain at the City Annex, at least for the time being.

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In other business, the Council heard an impassioned plea from former Thomas Jefferson Middle School and Jefferson City High School coach and teacher Jim Marshall for the city to join a new campaign to create a statewide prescription drug-monitoring program (PDMP). Missouri is the only state which does not have such a system. Marshall's son, Cody, died Sept. 27, 2011, of an overdose of heroin, Xanax and synthetic marijuana. Marshall is now track coach at William Woods University in Fulton.

Cole County recently subscribed to the St. Louis County PDMP, which allows health care providers to share drug information. Columbia, Independence, Jackson County, Kansas City, St. Charles County, St. Louis City and St. Genevieve County already are in the compact.

Cole County Health Department Director Kristi Campbell recently presented the PDMP to a Council committee without sparking action.

The Council heard a first reading on a proposed $2.1 million contract with SAK Construction of O'Fallon for sewer main rehabilitation, a 270-day project expected to be approved in the coming weeks.

The city legislators were briefed by city counselor Ryan Moehlman and Fire Chief Matt Schofield on a $25,000 supplemental appropriation for work on the City Annex. Public Works Director Matt Morasch explained $15,000 of the proposal would fund a study by The Architects Alliance on re-purposing the main floor of the annex to accommodate the Municipal Court, which now operates from the Council Chambers. The remaining $10,000 would provide a backup generator for the ground floor, which houses the Fire Department's administrative offices.

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