JOPLIN, Mo. —
Every Tuesday and Thursday, more than 40 residents stretch and bend in exercise classes at the Joplin Senior Center.
Though the custodian shuffles around tables and chairs to make room, space is tight.
“We really need a larger space. The exercise program has been a huge success, so much so that we sometimes find ourselves bumping one another,” reads a letter to the city signed by 72 people who frequent the Senior Center at 22nd Street and Jackson Avenue.
That’s not the only problem there, though.
There’s no more music.
Though the city replaced the roof of the building after damage by the 2011 tornado, it leaks. The piano got wet and now it needs to be tuned.
“It would be nice to hear it played again at lunch times,” the letter states.
In the kitchen, the floor is worn and a makeover is needed, too.
And what’s more frustrating in a game of dominoes than getting beaten? Try playing on wobbly tables, not to mention trying to eat lunch on them.
That’s why the city received this letter in May:
“Dear council members,
“It is our understanding that the state recently granted Joplin $113 million for tornado relief. We would like for you to specify a portion of that gift to the Senior Citizen’s building.”
A newly introduced $130 million proposal, called the Joplin Community Phase II Recovery Plan, will use $113 million in Community Development Block Grant money, a $14 million one-time allocation from the state, and city matching funds where required, for a variety of projects.
One of those — a $40 million “Joplin Commons” athletic and recreation complex — would incorporate a new senior center. Not only would seniors get exercise space and new meeting and meal areas, but a therapy pool also would be included.
“I hope that what they’re thinking about it is going to be good,” says Linda Fullerton, one of those seniors who signed the letter to the city council. “I hope they don’t shortchange the older people. They’re all fired up now” about the proposal.
Fullerton said that she goes to the current senior center for exercise classes but there are many more people who rely on the meals for their nutrition at what she considers a reasonable price of $3. The center also brings in free health exams such as blood sugar and blood pressure tests, which some could not otherwise afford.
“It has a lot going on. It’s a pretty vital place, really,” she said.
Joplin Parks and Recreation Director Chris Cotten said the complex also could address wishes expressed by a number of groups in the community. It would have an indoor competition pool, long sought by swim team representatives, as well as indoor basketball courts and soccer fields for both local play and tournament business. It also would contain three meeting rooms for groups, athletic teams or family gatherings.
A Little League complex also is proposed. Cotten said that the current ballparks are difficult for volunteer parents to maintain.
An outdoor skatepark and BMX park could continue to bring in competitive events such as JoMoPro as well as providing a place for recreational riding and boarding.