The East Baton Rouge Parish Recreation and Park Commission Wednesday approved a deal with a nonprofit group that plans to build, staff and operate a large, air-conditioned gym at Perkins Road Community Park.
“This is really a great project,” BREC Assistant Superintendent Ted Jack said.
The effort to get the gym built is being led by the Baton Rouge Basketball and Volleyball Association Inc. The president and CEO of The Shaw Group Inc., Jim Bernhard, is a key member of the association seeking to build the gym.
The cost to build and equip the facility, which will be large enough for three basketball courts or five volleyball courts, is estimated at $5 million, Jack said.
Jack said the parks department is only required to put $1.5 million into the project under the cooperative endeavor agreement with the association.
He said BREC’s money will be used mostly for site work, and the new gym will be physically tied to an existing recreation center.
Gary Patureau, president of the Skate Park Association of Baton Rouge, spoke against the proposed location for the gym. He said the site is adjacent to existing facilities for skateboarders and bike riders that need to be expanded because of the park’s heavy use.
“This whole park is an extreme sports park,” Patureau said, adding that it took 10 years to get it developed.
He suggested building the gymnasium on BREC property adjacent to nearby Olympia Field or elsewhere rather than on a site immediately adjacent to the skate park.
Patureau said his group doesn’t oppose the gymnasium, just the location. He said the project was moving at “warp speed” and that BREC needed to examine it more carefully before signing off on an agreement.
“I know money’s driving this, and it’s almost a done deal,” Patureau said. “I know there’s very little that we can do to stop this train at this moment.”
Jack said BREC’s master plan has always called for a gym to be built on the proposed site and tied into the existing recreation center. He said there is no funding or plan to expand existing skate park facilities at Perkins Road Community Park.
Several BREC board members questioned elements of the agreement, particularly whether sufficient time will be available at the gym for the public and for BREC programs and activities.
The agreement specifies that basketball and volleyball programming will have a priority for scheduling of the gymnasium. However, a minimum of 30 percent of the available programming time is reserved for BREC programs.
BREC Superintendent Bill Palmer told commissioners that the nonprofit Baton Rouge Basketball and Volleyball Association “is accomplishing BREC’s vision with this facility.”
The agreement approved Wednesday calls for BREC to pay the nonprofit group a monthly stipend of $4,500 to cover the costs of BREC’s use of the gymnasium.
Jack said the nonprofit will be responsible for staffing and maintaining the facility and will pay utilities.
Any revenues generated from activities at the gymnasium, such as admission fees and concession sales, are to remain with the nonprofit group but are subject to audit by BREC, according to the agreement.
Plans call for the gymnasium to be completed and open for activities in February.