Final countdown for the new J


The final countdown has begun.

On Sunday, a 1 p.m. grand opening will celebrate the completion of the first phase of the Jewish Community Center’s $23 million Staenberg Family Complex on the Millstone Campus. On May 4, the building opens for general use.


“What I’m really proud of is that this isn’t something they just took off the shelf,” said JCC Board president Michael Staenberg, who called the building “a work of art.” “This wasn’t something canned. There were a lot of people giving input. A lot of different groups went into making this happen.”

Matt Wever, senior director of facilities, said the goal was to provide something for everyone.

“We tried to design a facility that was conducive to the fitness and wellness needs of the entire family unit,” he said. “Everything is designed to be user-friendly and easy to navigate around. We’ve also incorporated all the latest technology in terms of energy efficiency and with regards to chemical and electrical equipment.”

The May 3 grand opening marks the completion of the first phase of the “new” J. The 95,000-square foot building, which includes a 12,300-square foot indoor aquatic center featuring a recreational pool, a lap pool and a kids area with slides, fountains and other interactive play elements, will also hold a 15,000-square foot fitness center with a group exercise studio, a circuit training room, a spinning room, a functional training studio, and a mind/body studio for yoga and Pilates. All the exercise machines are new and the workout stations in the WiFi-equipped cardiovascular training area even come with individual televisions and iPod docks.

The building includes squash and racquetball facilities, while the main gym, which is encircled by an elevated track, can be subdivided into two regulation basketball courts, four smaller courts or four volleyball courts with nets that descend from the ceiling.

Wever said the JCC will partner with Kohn’s Kosher Market and Deli to offer kosher menu choices at the new J Caf é, which is well-situated to help parents keep an eye on family members.

“We put some full-length glass in between the eating area of the J Caf é and the pool so rather than parents or grandparents having to be in that warmer pool environment they can sit outside and enjoy something to eat or drink and watch their child from the caf é area.”

The second phase of construction, set for its opening early next year, will unveil the redesigned parts of the old Carlyn H. Wohl Building, about a third of which will be incorporated into the new Staenberg facility after the rest is demolished. In addition to the JCC’s administrative offices, other facilities housed there will include the New Jewish Theatre’s studio theater, a renovated early childhood center, an expanded adult day services program, cultural and performing arts spaces, reading rooms, an adult lounge and a beit midrash. Phase three will concentrate on exterior installments such as the swimming pool. The completed facility will cover 155,000 square feet.

JCC President and CEO Lynn Wittels said the community is invited to the grand opening celebration. She noted that Gov. Jay Nixon is scheduled to appear at the event — although his attendance has not been confirmed.

Wittels said during the opening festivities children will be able to put their handprints on tiles, which will then go into the second phase of renovations of the family center.

Perhaps most passionate about the new $23-million complex is the man whose family name it will bear.

Staenberg, who has donated about $20 million to the JCC, said that he hopes the new building will help revitalize the agency. He added that his family was thrilled to play a role in the process.

“They’re taking it in stride,” he said. “They’re very happy and proud that we were able to do something like this for the community.”

Staenberg said the facility also has a larger lesson.

“We’re trying to show people that you can do things,” he said. “We can be a vibrant Jewish community and we can make things happen.”

JCC Staenberg Family Complex grand opening

WHEN: 1 p.m. Sunday, May 3

WHERE: 2 Millstone Campus Drive, Creve Coeur

COST: Free

MORE INFO: 314-432-5700 or visit