JCC showcases Fox Building renovations

BY MIKE SHERWIN, ASSISTANT EDITOR

The Jewish Community Center of St. Louis celebrated the more than $3 million in renovations of its Marilyn Fox Building in Chesterfield with a ribbon-cutting and a building re-dedication ceremony last week.

The building’s namesake, Marilyn Fox, and her husband, U.S. Ambassador Sam Fox, flew into town from Belgium to attend the ceremony, which also served as a 101st birthday party for I.E. Millstone.

The renovations are part of the JCC’s $49 million capital campaign, chaired by Michael Staenberg, JCC board chairman, who contributed $15 million to the campaign, along with Marilyn Fox and Todd Siwak, both JCC board members. Millstone and Tom Green are honorary co-chairman.

The campaign is funding an overhaul of JCC facilities, including the renovations at the Fox Building and construction of a new fitness center at the JCC on the Millstone Campus in Creve Coeur, and renovations of the Carlyn H. Wohl Building.

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At the rededication ceremony at the Marilyn Fox Building, which originally opened in 1997, the JCC showcased the results of renovations that began in the spring, which have nearly doubled the size of the building’s fitness center, tripled the size of the child care facilities and revamped the location’s outdoor pool.

“We have really come a long way in 10 years with this facility,” said Marilyn Fox. “Sam and I have been gone for eight months, so we haven’t had the opportunity to see what’s really been going on. And this is awesome, I have to tell you.”

Staenberg said that several years ago, the board of directors took a hard look at the future of the JCC.

“When we started our strategic plan 6 or 7 years ago, there was a big debate whether or not to keep this facility open,” he said. “We made a strategic decision to keep two facilities, the one Sam and Marilyn Fox started, and keep Mr. Millstone’s dreams moving after 47 years at the Millstone campus.”

In the 6,500 square-foot fitness area of the Fox building, visitors were shown the all-new, state-of-the-art fitness equipment, along with large, wall-mounted, flat-screen televisions. There are new studio spaces for spinning classes, a yoga/pilates studio, and studios for functional and circuit training.

The building also has new kosher kitchen facilities, upgraded locker rooms and changing areas, a juice bar, and an area for massages with a full-time massage staff, and three rooms for individuals, and one room for couples.

One of the most talked about features, though, was the J Game Zone, which combines exercise with interactive video games. One studio space contains two Nintendo Wii games and the Cybex Trazer. For the latter, participants wear a harness, which electronically tracks their movements, so they can use real-world movement in a virtual sports gaming environment.

The J Game Zone will also feature DDR Dance Dance Revolution and Cateye GameBike Pro, which also combine real exercise with computer gaming.

In the gymnasium, there is also a Sportwall, which uses flashing buttons, which participants tag in interactive, timed sports games.

At the ribbon cutting ceremony, speakers reflected on the new developments at the JCC, and the importance of the JCC to the community.

Staenberg echoed the sentiments of many speakers at the ceremony that the JCC’s impact is due to the community of people who work there, those who donate time or money, and the members of the JCC.

“In 22 months, we will have a new facility that will rival any in the community,” Staenberg said, referring to the upcoming completion of construction and renovation at the JCC in Creve Coeur. “But again, it’s not the building. It’s not like the Field of Dreams, where ‘If you build it they will come.’ We have to have people to help execute our vision, and we have to have a sense of community.”

Staenberg thanked the donors past and present at the ceremony, and singled out three in particular.

“I’m only as good as my mentors. I look at Mr. Millstone, and I look at Marilyn and Ambassador Sam Fox, come back and join us today. It’s really a great privilege to follow in their footsteps and see how they have led this community,” he said.

Barry Rosenberg, executive vice president of the Jewish Federation, told the audience that he became involved in the Jewish community through his hometown’s JCC.

“I understand what a JCC is about because I have lived it, and it has made a tremendous impact in my life,” he said. “As important and as impressive as the renovations you are celebrating today are, they are not the real story… The story is what people find within the facility.”

“At its core, what the JCC is all about is reaching out . . . Connecting individuals, finding where and how they fit. Giving them access to community, providing the services they need . . . and starting or guiding them on their pathway to greater Jewish connection, engagement, health and meaning,” Rosenberg said.

Marty Oberman, JCC board member, and emcee of the event, said the renovations are part of a broader vision to adapt and serve future generations.

“Our plans for the future are to ensure that the JCC is ready and able to meet the needs of the next generation, as it did for our parents and grandparents. The opportunity that lies ahead for us, our children, and our children’s children, and for our JCC, is absolutely extraordinary,” he said.

The JCC will hold a variety of events to celebrate the renovations of the Fox Building, culminating with two open house events, on Sunday Jan. 20 and Monday, Jan. 21. For more information, contact the JCC at 314-442-3428. For a full schedule of events, visit www.jccstl.com.