Council talks Community Center upgrades; Previous proposal approached $4M & lacked complete help

Published 12:09 am Saturday, March 2, 2019

LAPLACE — The thorny challenge of determing a comprehensive strategic plan for the St. John Community Center has been debated for several years and once again took center stage with St. John the Baptist Parish Council members.

Meeting Tuesday night in LaPlace, Council Chairman Thomas Malik said he and Councilman Larry Snyder recently toured the center, which was once a bustling center for the movie industry, to brainstorm potential improvements to maximize its use.

Past complaints have included not enough breakout space for meeting rooms, pricey rental fees sending high school proms and carnival organizations to similar facilities in neighboring parishes and inadequately designed setup to host youth sporting events.

“The intent is to identify things we can do to make it better,” Malik said. “We need to come up with a cost efficient plan, and we should include the River Parish Tourist Commission (in the process).”

The commission has had office space in the center for the past several years and in return has been in charge of marketing and booking events as well as working with the movie industry. However, the commission will soon be moving to new offices, and management of the building will revert back to the parish.

Parish President Natalie Robottom provided council members with financial estimates from a 2017 conceptual plan that would have had the parish spending $3.9 million for a 14,880-square-foot addition. She noted the price tag did not include site improvements such as parking, driveways, lighting, etc.

No action was taken then because of a lack of funding.

Robottom said the community center committee was involved in that process, and added Snyder and Councilwoman Julia Remondet were committee members.

Malik said he and Snyder discussed what would essentially be constructing a building within a building that would include more space for meetings as well as additional bathrooms. The rooms would be added on the center’s second floor.

“The film people can come in and still use it,” Snyder said. “We need some type of engineer (to design the space) and get some idea (of cost), then we can have two conceptual ideas.”

Also being discussed is installing a basketball court with temporary bleachers to host youth and high school basketball and volleyball games.

Plans to install a court and bleachers were first visited under a different council several years ago but never gained traction.

“These are some simple things that can be phased in,” Malik said. “We want to make it user friendly and maybe host some (youth) tournaments.”

— By Richard Meek