Have Parks, Will Travel: Transforming Recreation into Destination

by Amy Schroeder, Community Relations Manager, JC Parks

Have you ever travelled for a sports tournament as a parent, coach, or athlete? No doubt you recall the HOURS you spent in the gym or ball field either playing or cheering on your team from the stands. Perhaps you have equally fond memories of celebrating a big win together at a favorite restaurant or unwinding with the other parents in the hotel lounge after a log day at the sports venue. 

Attending sports events is about more than the game itself. Your experience includes restaurants, shops, hotels, and other amenities the host city has to offer. Recognizing the significant benefit for its residents and visitors, JC Parks has spent recent years investing in sport facility infrastructure. The Linc wellness and recreation center opened in 2017, providing four regulation basketball courts. In 2020, JC Parks opened 63 Diamonds Sports Complex, a four-field venue fit for baseball and softball.

What does this meaning for our local economy? In the first three months of 2021, The Linc hosted six tournaments. According to calculations provided by Jefferson City Convention and Visitors Bureau, the estimated economic impact was $227,982. That figure is predicted to increase post-pandemic. 

But Jefferson City is so much more than sports. Its big city amenities and small town hospitality sets it up as an ideal destination. Take a look at the three most recent JC Parks capital projects that further enhance this transformation. 

Community Park

Completed July 2020

JC Parks completed its first master plan in 2018. When prioritizing master plan improvements, staff and commission members took into consideration the current quality of a park and how much impact the improvement would have on the community. Community Park easily jumped to the head of the line. The park had outdated play equipment and no restrooms. As far as impact, the area around Community Park has one of the densest residential populations of any existing park in Jefferson City. It is also situated in the city’s urban core, putting it in close proximity to the Capitol and the downtown district. 

The outcome? A destination park that brings in visitors from all over. From the giant ropes tower and slide, the zip lines, public art, and the splash pad, Community Park is a playground unlike any other in central Missouri. On any given weekend, vehicles fill the parking lot and dozens of visitors ranging from toddlers to seniors play together. While they come to Jefferson City for the park, they extend their stay by grabbing a bite to eat before heading home.

McClung Indoor Pavilion

Completed October 2020

Built in 1915, the indoor pavilion at McClung Park has been the parks system’s most popular rental venue. The historic landmark was given a major facelift in 2020. 

  • Replaced all exterior windows and drywall/siding between rock columns with storefront window panes, allowing for more natural light and brightening the pavilion’s interior use area.
  • Added an outdoor patio space connecting the indoor pavilion with the playground. 
  • Repainted of entrance lobby and interior use area, upgraded and added interior lighting, enclosed chair and table storage, added multi-use flooring.
  • Repaired structural masonry cracking and repaired water intrusion along east wall.
  • Upgraded park entrance off of Oakwood Drive and added parking lot storm water detention basin.
  • Installed interior and exterior security cameras.

Combined with the playground renovation in 2016, the McClung indoor pavilion is an ideal venue for weddings, reunions, and more. 

Riverside Amphitheater

Completed May 2021

The original amphitheater at Ellis-Porter Riverside Park that was built in the mid-1950s received an overhaul in 2020-2021. The previous amphitheater was a primitive concrete-tiered venue with limited ADA accessibility, lighting, and electricity. 

The new amphitheater footprinted was rotated north to allow for bigger crowds. This change allows a capacity of 2,500+. 

  • 500 Reserved Seating
  • 300 Terrace general admission
  • 1,700+ Lawn general admission

Other features include a covered bandshell and backstage area and dressing rooms. Future plans include permanent restrooms and storage/VIP area. 

The inaugural season kicked off on May 22, 2021 with Clay Walker and Tracy Lawrence. More shows will be announced throughout the 2021 season. The venue will also host local events like KidsFest and Battle of the Brews and is available for private rental.