O’FALLON – It’s been impressive to drive by the new McKendree Metro Rec Plex, at the corner of Rt. 50 and Troy-Scott Road, and watch huge cranes tilt walls into place. Even more impressive is close up look in the 160,000 square foot facility being built to house two hockey rinks, two swimming pools, a fitness center, and more.
Ken Smallheer, General Manager, likened the construction of the facility to an adult-sized “erector set.”
“Everything has to be precise,” Smallheer said. “Trusses being welded into place have to be placed perfectly. It is quite something to orchestrate.”
Both Smallheer and Senior General Manager John Arbeiter said that the construction is proceeding on schedule. McKendree University, which will use the facility for ice hockey, swimming, water polo, and diving teams, is anticipating completion by the start of the Fall 2016 semester.
Arbeiter said that one of his tasks has been to give tours to recruits for the ice and aquatic teams. “It’s something for the students to consider – to be ‘the first people on the first diving team at McKendree,’” he said.
A road is being built that will sweep from Rt. 50 across from Eastlake Dr. to the front of the building to an entrance/exit on Troy-Scott Road. Both entrances/exits will have traffic lights. (The current road will be reserved for construction equipment.)
The main entrance facing Rt 50 leads into the “pro rink,” an NHL-size space of 200 by 85 feet. Goals will be at true north and south on the ice rink.
The space, designed to be a multi-use and multi-purpose to accommodate concerts, other sports, and more, will seat 2500 spectators. A similar size rink to the west, the “junior rink,” will be built on sand and have ice year round.
The Metro Rec Plex will include two swimming pools, one for recreation and one for competitive swimming, diving and water polo. Although the walls are up around the space, equipment will be needed shortly to dig the pools.
The Rec Plex will also have fitness rooms, a track, a pro shop, and locker rooms. Memberships will be available to the public.
Although the managers said that everything is currently on schedule, the contractors are still mindful of the weather. Rain and mud would slow the use of heavy equipment, and panels cannot be tilted or handled in any significant wind.
Smallheer added that the developer is looking at other uses on the 45-acre site. As for that big pile of dirt? Smallheer said that some of it will be redistributed on the site and the rest awaits the additional development.
For more on the new ice rinks and aquatic center, go to www.metrorecplex.com. Recent aerial photos are at http://mckbearcats.com/galleries/