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story.lead_photo.caption Jared Niemeyer, foreground, Gary Wilbers, and Mike and Buddy Farmer, in background, sign the steel beam Wednesday before it's hoisted into place during a topping-out ceremony at the new Special Olympics Training for Life facility on Christy Drive. Niemeyer, of Edina, is an athlete and is excited about the prospect of attending training at the facility. Wilbers is on the board of directors and has been active in landing the facility in Jefferson City. The Farmers donated the land on which the facility is being built. Photo by Julie Smith / News Tribune.

A milestone in the construction of the new home of Special Olympics Missouri in Jefferson City took place Wednesday morning as the final steel beam on SOMO's Training for Life Campus took its place.

The facility is being built just off the east side of Christy Drive on a 16.5-acre site three-quarters of a mile south of Ellis Boulevard, which previously was used as a rock quarry.

SOMO officials announced in early 2015 the project had been awarded to Jefferson City over a competing bid from Columbia. The proposal, submitted by the Jefferson City Area Chamber of Commerce, included the Christy Drive property donated by Land Investments, which is run by Bud Farmer, Mike Farmer and Frank Twehous. The property is valued at $3.2 million.

The 32,000-square-foot building will be complemented with a variety of outdoor recreational fields, providing space for soccer, a four-lane track with a 100-meter straight-away, long jump and shot put areas, golf skills space, horseshoe pits, tennis competition area, softball fields, bocce courts, a torch run plaza and as yet unidentified sports.

SOMO officials said this will be the only campus of its kind that offers athletes screening rooms equipped for health care professionals to conduct exams. The free screenings include vision, hearing, teeth, feet, physical therapy, health promotion and sports physicals.

Special Olympics President/CEO Mark Musso told the crowd Wednesday they still need to raise more money to make everything planned for the campus a reality.

Gary Wilbers, vice-chair of the SOMO Board of Directors, said they were within $500,000 of their total fundraising goal of $18.5 million to cover construction of the buildings and fields. He said key donations by Centene Corporation of St. Louis, which gave $1.8 million; the Knights of Columbus, which gave $1.2 million; and $1 million from law enforcement agencies across the state allowed SOMO to keep working on this project.

Ground was broken last May, and the hope is to open facilities for use by this fall. Musso said they were confident the work will be done on time and under budget.

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"This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity," Musso said Wednesday. "This will change lives for decades to come."

Musso acknowledged a group of SOMO athletes Wednesday who wore special red letterman jackets and raised at least $5,000 for the project. One of those athletes was Jefferson City resident Derek Sandbothe, who was the last person to sign the beam before it was welded into place.

The SOMO campus is expected to bring in approximately $350,000 per year to the Jefferson City economy. Its estimated 1,200 athletes, along with coaches and volunteers, will take advantage of year-round opportunities that could bring in 1,950 room nights and 7,500 meals annually to Jefferson City hotels and restaurants, according to Jefferson City Area Chamber of Commerce estimates.

The Land Investments team announced earlier they don't plan to start additional development until the SOMO campus is in place, but what could develop in the area would complement the Special Olympics campus as the anchor of the 55-acre parcel.

An earlier Chamber of Commerce proposal for the project included a conceptual map showing seven potential commercial lots alongside the Training for Life campus. Land Investments planned to develop the area similar to how it developed the quarry site at Stoneridge Village in Jefferson City, where Kohl's, Menards and Dick's Sporting Goods are located.