Poll finds community wants part of St. John Community Center

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, November 16, 2011

By David Vitrano


LAPLACE – Since its completion several years ago, the St. John Community Center has struggled to find its niche in the community and has been relatively empty much of the time.

Its cash-flow problem was temporarily stemmed when the production for the TV show “Memphis Beat” took up residence there. During its time there, however, many local residents and organizations grumbled about the fact that the facility was not available for use by the community.

Now that the show has been cancelled, St. John Parish President Natalie Robottom and her administration have found themselves grappling with what to do with the large structure. She said she believes it should have a dedicated purpose, either to be used as a community center or as a soundstage, but added she needed input from the community at large before making a decision.

With that in mind, last week L’Observateur asked visitors to its website what they thought the facility should be used for.

More than 40 percent of respondents seemed pleased with the Community Center’s current status as a multi-use facility. Should this happen, however, the parish will likely work out a schedule so it can also be used by local residents, and that possibility was reflected in the answers.

Only slightly fewer respondents believed the center should return to its originally intended use. Robottom said if the facility remains a community center, she would like to see some things, such as a partitioning of the air conditioning, happen so rental prices could be brought down.

Only one in 10 respondents felt the center should be once again repurposed and made into an expo center, such as the ones in Ascension and Jefferson parishes.

Lastly, only 7 percent of respondents felt the center should be made into a dedicated soundstage for movie and TV productions.

A full breakdown of results follows:

• 7 percent of respondents chose “Keep using it for a soundstage. The productions brought extra revenue into the parish.”

• 38 percent of respondents chose “It is a community center, and the community should be able to use it.”

• 10 percent of respondents chose “The parish should make it into an expo center for trade shows and other events.”

• 41 percent of respondents chose “Keep the building as a multi-use facility, but develop a workable schedule.”

• 4 percent of respondents chose “Other/ none of the above.”