Ask any visitor and tourism director of any town what they talk about and it can be summed up in one word: destination. Aside from the obvious draw of Missouri S&T, Rolla also has a facility that had paid visits from more than 400 zip codes in 2016. You could call that a destination. You can also call it “The Centre,” the city’s crown jewel that provides the splash, the dunk, the spike—the physical challenges and social congregating  that brings  members and visitors back time and again. It has just celebrated 15 years in the community and here’s what’s in store for the future.

Parks and Recreation Director Floyd Jernigan and the Parks board provides a measured path based on sound business principles. Since the grand opening on June 1, 2002, the Centre has benefitted from a half-cent sales tax earmarked for recreation facilities that was passed by the citizens of Rolla in 1998. This funding source ended in 2013, so the facility has been operating on a subsidy from the reserve fund balance—not the general fund—of the initial tax and also, income derived from the services the Centre provides. The annual operating budget runs between $150,000 to $250,000 per year. With expenses and revenues to meet those expenses, Director Jernigan says the Centre needs to operate just like any other successful business and offers the public some general guidelines to ensure the Centre achieves financial independence and remains a regional destination well into the future.

* provide over-the-top customer service, with an enhanced member experience
* continue to seek partnerships
* add and expand sales focus with emphasis on revenue generation
* continue to analyze and reduce expenses where possible
* expand and create new, special event offerings
* continue to upgrade equipment

“What we’re really trying to do [here at the Centre] is provide a facility the citizens can be proud of and provide a way to raise wellness, education and awareness for all citizens,” said Jernigan.
He sights examples and the list is long, that includes partnerships with Phelps County Regional Medical Center (PCRMC), the Rolla Multi-Sport Club and The Community Partnership. He notes that day passes and value passes have extended The Centre’s geographic reach and has put The Centre within the budget of households that might not have been able to afford it, otherwise.
“We have a number of initiatives that we do, that you don’t have to be a member to partake in,” Jernigan explains. “We think the day passes are very affordable ($6 for a senior or youth and $8 for an adult) and you can come and take part in anything we have going on. We have around 33 different fitness classes that are going on in a given week, so you can come with a day pass and play basketball, you can go swimming and you can take part in yoga, Zumba, use the [exercise] equipment on the floor, or whatever.”

“Overall, our [membership] numbers are up and that’s very encouraging,” he said. “It takes good functioning equipment that is appealing to people—it has to be useful and meets their needs, along with a variety of programs and getting the word out that you’ve got that. At the same time, you’re being the best possible steward with what the citizens have given us. I’m always mindful that we work for everybody out there [in the community].”

Those sound business principles as standard operating procedure may be needed to keep The Centre in an upward trajectory growth trend.

Even at a time when economists tell us the economy may be so-so, but is back to full employment from the 2008 recession, many communities don’t feel the love. With uncertainty in the healthcare markets that will affect PCRMC in some way and budget cuts to Missouri S&T, Rolla’s economy may weather the instability, but it’s uncertain how the trickle-down effect will influence individual households. The Centre isn’t immune to that, but Jernigan isn’t concerned and remains optimistic that they are on the right track.
I think the business community is very solid and we’re very active with the Chamber,” he noted.
“It’s really about getting the message out and telling people what we are trying to do. We have the ability and I don’t feel constrained in terms of resources. But, we have to be efficient and frugal—our expenditures have to make sense.”
He says he’s all about trying to find a way to say “yes,” coupled with a “can-do” attitude, within fiscal limits.
“We can grow the program by being cost-effective and managing the dollars we have,” he said.
In a nod to the important revenue side of the bookkeeping column, “Can we do more partnerships?” he asks. “Can we do more special events and programming that in turn will get more people [to become members]?”

“Something new we are doing, is partnering with the Rolla Rockets Roller Derby team for a July 23 match-up,” he shares. “They’ve been practicing on Sunday evenings here, so we’re looking forward to  seeing what we can do with this unique partnership. It’s being open to these possibilities—how can we partner with groups in the community to do things?”

Jernigan feels strongly about the role fitness plays in everyone’s day-to-day activities—not only the physical, but the mental, no matter the age group. He sees the broader mission of building the individual to strengthen families and ultimately the community itself.

“We’re very bullish about this city,” he says.
“There’s a lot of great things here that make Rolla what it is and we’re fortunate to be just one piece of that.”