Playing’s the thing for council

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, November 3, 2009



LAPLACE – The St. John Parish Council has approved a pair of design contracts for improvements to recreational facilities on both sides of the river.

The projects – an airnasium for a west bank park complex and a 359-seat gymnasium to be built near Regala Park in Reserve – are both tied to the parish’s $29.5 million bond issue that was approved by voters in April.

The council authorized a $50,000 contract with Chenevert Engineers, which has offices in New Orleans and Baton Rouge, to do design work for the airnasium at the West Bank Recreational Complex. An airnasium, according to acting St. John Chief Administrative Officer Buddy Boe, is an open-air basketball court with a metal roof. Boe said the design work also calls for restrooms and storage space.

The estimated budget for the airnasium project is $550,000. Boe said the court facility is part of a multi-phase improvement overhaul for the west bank park that will include a walking path, expanded parking and more landscaping.

On the east bank, the council approved a $295,000 contract with Meyers Engineers of Metairie to design a $3.1 million parish gymnasium at Regala Park. Boe said the parish is hoping the gym will go a long way toward revitalization of the Reserve park.

“Regala has become an afterthought as far as public use,” Boe said. “In the 18 months that the gym is under construction, the recreation department will be putting together a checklist for improvements at the park so that we can return it to the prime recreational facility it once was.”

Boe said plans for the gym, which will also be used as an emergency relocation point for the parish, include an indoor basketball court, bleachers, a meeting room and offices for the parish’s recreation department.

Although council members approved the agreement, the parish was questioned as to whether recreation board members had seen the updated conceptual drawings.

Councilwoman Jaclyn Hotard said she wanted to make sure that the council and the recreation board had a chance to see the drawings before voting for approval.

“I don’t want to vote on something before seeing the plans,” Hotard said. “I want to make sure the building is what it is and that we are not getting something we didn’t ask for. I’m not naming buildings, but everyone knows what I’m talking about.”

Hotard, who abstained from the council’s vote, was referring to the St. John Community Center in LaPlace, which was originally approved to be a recreational facility before being redesigned into a soundstage. The parish spent $5 million on the original design and an additional $2 million for the remodel.

David Dupre, vice president of Meyer Engineers, told Hotard during the meeting that he would e-mail copies of the drawing to council members and to the recreation board following the meeting.