The replacement for a city-owned pool and recreation center on St. Claude Avenue that had been shuttered after Hurricane Katrina opened Friday, providing a range of recreational facilities for Bywater residents.

The $6.2 million Stallings St. Claude Center and Pool at 4300 St. Claude Ave. will serve as a place where “our city’s youth can seek enrichment and where parents can watch them play and grow,” Mayor Mitch Landrieu said in a prepared statement.

The former center “provided the Bywater, St. Claude and 7th Ward communities with a variety of recreational and educational opportunities for decades until it was devastated by Hurricane Katrina,” Landrieu said. “Today, we celebrate the rebirth of this important community anchor.”

The 17,000-square-foot center, 4,000 square feet larger than the one it replaced, includes a pool, gymnasium, fitness room, multipurpose rooms, field, basketball court and bike racks.

“We are working together to make the programming associated with Stallings St. Claude Center a success,” New Orleans Recreation Development Commission Chairman Roy Glapion said. “Please use this facility. It is yours to enjoy.”

Stallings is the second of three centers the Recreation Development Commission is opening this year.

The Sanchez Center in the Lower 9th Ward opened in June, and the Rosenwald Center at 1120 S. Broad St. is slated to open this fall.

The Stallings Center first opened in 1948. It was named for Olive A. Stallings, who established the Poydras Playground as the city’s first “play center” in 1906.

Stallings would go on to serve as the president of the New Orleans Playgrounds Commission, which was founded in 1911, until her death in 1940. She left a quarter of her estate to the cause of building playgrounds in the city.

The new center was paid for with money from FEMA, insurance and a city bond issue.

“This facility has traditionally been a gathering place for the community,” City Councilwoman Nadine Ramsey said in a statement. “With its reopening, Bywater and the surrounding communities will again have a place to support a vibrant and healthy lifestyle. It’s a wonderful addition to this thriving neighborhood, and I’m so happy to see it open again.”

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