Doors to parish-owned gym in Reserve open to little fanfare

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 28, 2011



RESERVE – St. John the Baptist Parish officials last week quietly opened the doors to the new Regala Park gymnasium marking the end of a long-awaited initiative to bring a community indoor recreational facility to residents of the parish.

A group of teams involved in a parish Biddy Basketball league became the first residents to shoot hoops at the parish-owned gym. The $2.2 million, 15,000-square-foot facility was paid for with money from a bond issue approved by voters in 2009.

“Contractors were wrapping up some cleanup work last week, but the gym is done and we wanted to get it open for resident use,” said St. John Parish spokesperson Paige Braud. “We are planning a more festive ribbon cutting after the holidays so that residents can tour the facility.”

The two-story facility features a two-in-one basketball court that allows for division into two full courts for younger players. The gym includes three sets of goals that can accommodate two practice sessions at once. The larger court configuration features seating for more than 350 with a full kitchen and concession stand with access inside and outside the gym.

The gym is the first parish-owned indoor recreational facility in St. John. In the past, the parish was forced to rent out gyms from the St. John School system for recreation league events and activities. Braud said the gym gives the parish a place of its own rather than having to work around school system activities, which have often pre-empted recreation-league games and other events.

The facility also includes a set of offices and a conference room for the recreation department. Recreation Director Errol Manuel said the building will allow the department to move out of a portable trailer behind the Percy Hebert Building in LaPlace. Braud said the gym was designed to sustain hurricane force winds and could double as an emergency relocation point and distribution center for the parish in the event of a disaster.

Parish President Natalie Robottom said the gymnasium will serve as a starting point for further improvements to the Regala Park area. She said the recreation department is currently working on a checklist of other improvements that will help return the park to the prime recreational facility it once was.

“The parish has been lucky in recent years to be blessed with a wealth of recreational outlets across the parish for residents to enjoy,” Robottom said. “Regala Park has always been the premier park in St. John and this gym has been a premier attraction we have wanted to add for several years.”

Robottom said the gym would serve the needs of residents of all ages.

In addition to regular recreational department sports leagues, Robottom said the parish plans to open the gym up to the Southeast Louisiana War Veterans Home and the St. John Senior Citizens Center, which are both in close proximity to the gym site.