JCC fitness center nears completion

BY MIA LEVINE, SPECIAL TO THE JEWISH LIGHT

The wait is almost over. The construction of the Jewish Community Center’s new $19 million Staenberg Family Complex fitness and wellness facility on the I.E. Millstone Jewish Community Campus in Creve Coeur is nearing an end — with a grand opening celebration slated for May 3, and the official opening May 4.

“The new J is here,” said Margaret Schatz, JCC Sales and Marketing Director. This state-of-the-art 95,000 square-foot fitness and wellness center will offer the community “an amazing fitness experience,” she added.

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“The building is the main complex for all things sports, fitness, health and wellness related,” said Matt Wever, senior director of facilities at the JCC. “We are accommodating the entire family group. From six-weeks-old to a grandparent, there’s something for everyone, whether it’s social, fitness or activity.”

The fitness and wellness facility will be the centerpiece of the Staenberg Family Complex, named for Michael and Carol Staenberg, whose $15 million donation spearheaded a $49 million JCC capital campaign. The complex will include a fully renovated Carlyn H. Wohl Building.

Schatz said the new fitness and wellness center was designed to be spacious, open, and full of natural light – a contrast to the closed walls and maze-like configuration of the old building. Windows abound. “Line of sight throughout all of the facilities was important to us, so you will see lots of windows looking out into other areas within the building,” Schatz said. “We want to keep an open, airy feel.

“This building has also been designed to be easily navigable. It’s straightforward and easy, especially for visitors to find what they are looking for.”

Near the main entrance is the membership office and the kosher dairy J Caf é, a lounge-type area with couches, chairs and a big-screen TV. The 35-seat caf é is open to the public. “We’re hoping that people from around the campus, like the Federation Building and beyond will stop in for lunch or a snack,” Wever said. “You don’t need to be a member to enjoy the food.”

Large glass walls around the J Caf é look out over the indoor aquatics center, so “grandparents or parents can keep an eye on their kids and not necessarily have to be in the indoor pool area,” Wever said.

The aquatics center offers two water options: a recreational warm water pool and a cool water area. The warm water pool includes a kids’ water park with two slides, bubblers and other play features. Also included are two lap lanes, a large area for group exercise, and long and short course walking paths designed with ceramic fish embedded in the pool bottom.

“With such a large space, we can have three different areas going at the same time,” Wever explained.

The 25-yard cool water pool contains four lap lanes with options for water basketball, volleyball and a 10-foot climbing wall.

The gymnasium has markings on the floor for basketball, volleyball, and badminton and can accommodate four volleyball or basketball games at a time. “There are two regulation courts for high school or adult leagues too. We can also subdivide the entire floor surface with curtains,” he said.

The gym is outfitted with acoustical sound panels, and a new sound system. “When we use this area for special events, like the (Jewish) Book Festival, we can fit 1,000 people in here. From an acoustical standpoint, we can reduce the sound and the echo,” Wever said.

Down the hall from the gym is a babysitting room with access to the early childhood playground. According to Schatz, there will be a $250,000 investment in the state-of the-art playground complete with a babbling creek, boulders, throwing areas, and bike trails.

“We wanted to get away from the plastic structures,” said Wever, “and do something completely different. We’ll have a climbing wall that goes sideways instead of up. We purposefully designed it so that if early childhood is not using the outside playground area, kids in the babysitting area can utilize it,” he said.

The Women’s Health Club offers members an upscale experience with fingerprint entry; individual keypads on lockers; louvered, full-length doors on the toilets; a beauty bar area with low and high counters for doing hair and makeup; smoked, tempered glass shower doors and a sloped ceiling in the steam room so condensation drips down the walls instead of on the guests. Other amenities include a whirlpool, sauna, and oversized shower areas.

Separate locker rooms for those 16 and younger are also available. Schatz explained that because the J has a big draw for youth sports, particularly leagues, a separate locker room was necessary so as not to disrupt adult members. The separate facility serves as an alternate place for early childhood kids instead of the general locker room or the family changing area.

The Men’s Health Club and general locker room provides similar amenities to the women’s, minus the beauty bar.

Rounding out the main floor are top-of-the-line racquetball and squash courts, spa services and four separate massage rooms, with one larger one for couples massage.

There are 17,000 square feet wholly dedicated for fitness, with 10,000 square feet of that for weight equipment and cardio. Studios for spinning, yoga, Pilates, functional training, and circuit training line the inner walls.

The center features jGameZone, an interactive fitness area that blends exercise and entertainment.

“This is the fitness of the future,” states Schatz. “Ideally, the room is for our current teen population, but at our Fox building, moms and dads are joining in too. I’ve seen a mom and daughter have a dance-off on the DDR pad. I expect to see teens and their parents all benefiting from the Expresso bikes (which incorporate interactive visual displays), Wii’s and Trazer’s.”

Meanwhile, The Carlyn H. Wohl building is in the process of being gutted and renovated. Within 12 months, the two buildings will be connected. The new building will contain family, social, cultural, and educational programs including a meeting/performance center, a 300-seat black box theatre, plus early childhood and adult day services.

The Toddler and Pre-school Early Childhood programs have moved to their temporary home at the H.F. Epstein Hebrew Academy. Recently, the Cultural Arts Department, and a few staff members from the Department of Jewish Community Life were moved to the J’s temporary “home-away-from-home” on the third floor at 2127 Innerbelt Business Center Drive, which houses THF Realty Inc., JCC Board Chairman Michael Staenberg’s company.