Representatives from Lincoln University and Jefferson City Parks and Recreation on Friday revealed the name of Jefferson City's 80,000-square-foot wellness center to be forever known as The LINC.
LU President Kevin Rome told the audience the grand opening of The LINC represents a new beginning, as should every day moving forward.
"This is just the beginning; and if we stay focused on the plan, this is just symbolic of what's to come," he said.
Rome said future projects are underway in efforts to expand in other areas across the campus. For example, the Boys & Girls Club of Jefferson City facility is on track to be complete by the end of April, renovations to the on-campus tennis courts are being completed, and an indoor practice field could be in the future as well, Rome said.
"We hope to see a bubble built there, with an indoor practice facility for football, for soccer (and) for the community, so that during the winter, during the snow days, we have a facility that we can use," Rome said.
The LINC will be a hub for LU students, community members and local youth organizations like the Boys & Girls Club to engage in wellness activities offered by the center.
Denise Chapel, former president of the Parks and Recreation Commission, thanked Rome for his willingness to dream out loud and ability to incorporate the Parks vision and take it on as his own.
"This facility would not have been possible without it," Chapel said.
Chapel also thanked LU senior administration, the Parks and Recreation Commission, city government leaders and the Lincoln Board of Curators for their collaboration and effort throughout the process.
Gary Hill, LU chief of police, told the News Tribune the facility is a great investment and shows great foresight on the part of the university and Parks department to make The LINC a possibility for the community.
"We're so glad we were able to come together with the community and accomplish this for the sake of both Lincoln University and Jefferson City," said Dana Rice, assistant athletic director at LU. "It's a wonderful sight."
Patrons who want to visit the wellness center can purchase a daily pass for $5 or a monthly pass depending on the age group. Prices for monthly passes are: youth, $20 monthly or $240 annually; adult, $25 monthly or $300 annually; senior, $20 monthly or $240 annually; senior couple, $29 monthly or $348 annually, beginning at age 62; and family, $31 monthly or $372 annually.
Council members, students and community members were excited to be a part of the legacy granted by the public partnership among the university and Parks and Recreation.
Larry Henry, 5th Ward councilman, told the News Tribune this is a great accomplishment for the community as a whole.
"I am elated. I've lived in this community for over 20 years now, and I would have never thought this would have come to fruition," Henry said. "This is a win-win for LU, a win-win for the city, and everybody is going to benefit. When two organizations come together like this, you create some magical moments."
Throughout the grand opening, several speakers rose to express their joy and excitement for the opening of the center and what it represents for the community.
LU Board of Curators President Marvin Teer, a 1985 LU graduate, said The LINC will not only be known as a wellness center, but as a learning center for the old and young.
"I think there was a time where there were two different communities, but this shows you how important Jefferson City is to Lincoln and how important Lincoln is to Jefferson City," Teer said. "With the Boys & Girls Club nearby, this makes this a learning center for the little ones and the older ones — making everybody part of this community right here at home on Lincoln's campus."
Stephanie Johnson, executive director of the Boys & Girls Club, said her organization is proud to be part of The LINC.
"The LINC is more than just a building, it is a state of mind and a direction for our community," Johnson said. "Between LU, Parks and Recreation, and the Boys & Girls Club, The LINC has just begun; and we're excited to see who else joins in to expand our link."
LU upperclassmen like senior accounting major Alex Evans and junior criminal justice major Alexus Hunt are also proud to witness the advent of The LINC.
"This is exactly what we needed," Hunt said. "This is a great opportunity for Lincoln to grow as a whole, helping the university to attract new incoming freshmen, and for the alumni to take notice of how the university is growing."
Prior to The LINC, Evans said, students would have to go to Jason Gym, where there was less space and less equipment.
"This center creates a friendly environment for everybody to communicate, work out and have fun," Evans said.
The facility has been open to the public since Feb. 20, allowing students and community members to get acquainted with the center.
Todd Spalding, director of the Parks department, described the partnership with the university as a wonderful synergy.
"These types of facilities make so much sense," Spalding said. "There will be times when the students need it, and there will be times when we need it."
Spalding said the first plan of action with the revenue earned from membership passes is to pay the facility's overhead costs.
"The first thing we do is pay the bills, then we look at what's next," Spalding said.
Community partners like Capital Region Medical Center and St. Mary's Hospital attended the grand opening, signaling their support for the public partnership and the lasting impact it will have on the community.