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story.lead_photo.caption According to the City of Fulton, construction on the new community recreation center could wrap up in November. The city hopes to open the complex as soon as March. Photo by Helen Wilbers / News Tribune.

Fulton's Parks and Recreation Department aims to open the city's new community recreation center — tentatively named the Legends Rec Plex — by spring 2021.

Parks and Recreation Director Clay Caswell gave the Fulton City Council a major update on the ongoing project during Tuesday's meeting.

"We're on schedule to be done with construction in November," Caswell said. "There's still more parts to the facility. The city's taken on several tasks — they're going to pull all the wire for the IT, cables, stuff like that; we're going to install the security system and any audio/visual equipment."

After construction wraps up on the new multipurpose facility in Veterans Park, finishing touches will likely continue until just before Christmas.

Then begins the process of decorating the interior, installing audio/visual and security systems, and moving in equipment and furniture.

Caswell said the rec plex will be ready for prime-time by March or early April, or potentially sooner if all runs smoothly.

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Caswell proposed a name for the facility: "Legends Rec Plex." If adopted, the name will be reflected in the building's interior decor, which will be themed around famed people — "community legends" — who have connections to Fulton and Callaway County. Those people could be cultural, sports, business, political or military icons.

"The idea behind it is that the facility could honor and educate about local legends," Caswell said.

"I really like it," Ward 2's Mary Rehklau said.

Proposed hours of operation are 5:30 a.m.-10 p.m. Monday through Friday, 6 a.m.-8 p.m. Saturday and 6 a.m.-7 p.m. Sunday. The operations plan suggests opening it to free public use for a few hours per week, though community members will have to purchase memberships or day passes to use the facility outside those hours.

Community members will also be able to reserve the volleyball and basketball courts, batting cage and event rooms for special events.

The Parks and Recreation Department has worked up a fee structure that would put a monthly adult membership at $25, a youth membership at $15 and a family membership at $40.

The city originally estimated $8.9 million in costs for construction, plus an additional $260,000-$310,000 for equipment rental, furniture, security equipment and so on. About $5.27 million has been paid so far. Interim city engineer Kyle Bruemmer said the city has been able to find more than $250,000 in savings; even with two small change orders causing an additional $31,000 in costs, the project currently looks to come in under budget.

Much of the discussion Tuesday focused on a proposed operating budget for the recreation center's first year.

"Clay's put together a very detailed — and some might see it as optimistic — picture of its budget," Mayor Lowe Cannell said.

The operations plan projects a first-year revenue of $384,896 and expenses of $368,408 — a net income of about $16,488.

Ward 1's Ballard Simmons cautioned against overestimating the potential revenue. As he pointed out, rec center revenue goes into the city's general fund, from which many departments draw their funding.

"Other departments plan on having x-amount of dollars available," he said. If the rec center falls short, "is the police department not going to be able to get a new police car this year? I don't want to get into that situation."

He pointed out, for example, Fulton's two colleges might opt not to contract with the city and pay activity fees, eliminating $57,000 in revenue and plunging the budget into the red.

Caswell reassured the council his estimates are conservative. He said he conducted extensive research and spoke to other comparable facilities in the area. One, in Audrain County, pulls in around $1 million a year; another facility has $750,000 in revenue.

"A lot of research went into that number," he said.

Fulton Director of Administration Bill Johnson promised the center's expenses and income will be closely monitored.

Ward 3's John Braun said the city can help set the center up for success by marketing it early. Even before the center opens, the city can start selling early memberships, he said. Caswell mentioned the potential to bundle memberships to the rec plex, Tanglewood Golf Course and the municipal pool.

"We can't wait until May 1 or April 1," Braun said. "We have to start promoting early and hit the ground running."

City Council members will vote during a future meeting to finalize the fee structure, the rec center's name and other details.

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