The Heckart Community Center is now officially open, after a dedication ceremony and ribbon-cutting were held Friday morning, with hundreds of people attending the event.

The dedication ceremony was held in the gym, with numerous speeches by local dignitaries, followed by the ribbon-cutting ceremony inside the front entrance. Rain was a constant presence all day, outside the center, but the mood was warm and cheery inside.

It was open house by 11, with many taking tours of the new facility, or taking advantage of the fried chicken lunch offered by the Sedalia Senior Center, which is also located at the Heckart with brand new offices and equipment.

KC Wolf also made an appearance at the Heckart, posing for numerous photos with Chiefs fans.

The Heckart offered free swimming Friday. Many took advantage of the chance to swim indoors in a heated pool on a cool, rainy day.

Saturday, the Heckart opened for business.

The grand opening of the HCC coincided with the 20th anniversary of the death of Sue Heckart's mother, Stella.

State Representative Brad Pollitt attended the event, and gave us his thoughts:

“This is the most excitement I've seen forever in Sedalia for a new facility being built. It's another example of the community input, the people that worked on it, not caring who gets credit for it. And just bringing it together. I believe five years from now, (just like the new Smith-Cotton High School) people will ask, how did we get along without the high school? People will ask how did we get along without the beautiful facility? I'm very excited for the taxpayers that approved the 1/8 cent sales tax, and very excited for the community overall, and very appreciative of the people that worked so hard, and of course, always appreciative of Sue Heckart and what she gives to this community. It's just amazing, and I'm so thankful to have someone like her in our community,” Pollitt told KSIS.

City Administrator Kelvin Shaw:

“It's just awesome. I'm just so heartened by all the people who came out to help us celebrate, and I'm just looking forward to seeing the community enjoy this beautiful gift. Healthier and happier, that's what it's all about. The first feasibility study I was saw was from 2001. So I know it's been 20 years that the community's been working on this. It's been a long time coming, and we won't talk about all the hurdles we had to get over, we're here. I'm so excited, I can hardly contain myself,” Shaw told KSIS.

EDSPC Executive Director Jessica Craig:
“This is a monumental day for our community, and for the growth opportunities that lie ahead of us. The contributions by the citizens of Sedalia, by the City of Sedalia, by Sue Heckart, by the Parks Department, Amy Epple and all the leadership, I could not be happier. This is a tremendous resource and asset to our community, that provides new things for families to do, and will draw additional people to want to live here in Pettis County in Sedalia,” Craig told KSIS.

Craig added that EDSPC (Economic Development Sedalia-Pettis County) is using the HCC as a promotional item to help bring more businesses and families to Sedalia.

“It's all about having a great livability opportunity right here in our backyard, and this facility contributes a great deal to that,” she concluded.

Sedalia Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Debra Andresen:

“I think it's going to be a blessing for our community. We have been reaching out to other communities, letting them know about all the activities here. I think it's going to bring people from surrounding communities,” she said. “This building is amazing. I haven't got the chance to tour it yet, but I'm excited to be able to do that today.

Sedalia Police Chief Matt Wirt:

“I think it's a beautiful facility, and I think it's great that we've got this for the community, it's going to be a great asset for everyone to enjoy, and it will really help with the growth,” Chief Wirt said. “I really hope it helps put Sedalia on the map. A perfect location, and a great addition to Parks & Rec and (overall) I think we'll be in better shape.”

Fourth Ward Councilwoman Rhiannon Foster:

“It's been a long time coming, I'm the second generation to work on getting this here. So I am ecstatic. My children are literally almost crying because they are so excited. Every day I'll have one in the pool, and one on the basketball courts. This is life-changing for the children in our community for sure and adults,” she said.

Sedalia Mayor John Kehde, in his speech, noted that even though City Council, Sedalia Parks and Sue Heckart were all behind a community center, there was difficulty raising money to pay the bonds for the project initially.

“We struggled with that, and we decided, let's just let the people speak. So we put it on the ballot in August of 2019 for 1/8-cent sales tax increase for the Parks, and took the sunset clause off the capital improvements tax,” Kehde explained, “ so we could guarantee borrowing that money.”

Mayor Kehde credited City Administrator Kelvin Shaw with helping to make the HCC a reality.

“Kelvin's our money guy. Kelvin put this together, it's incredible. I will tell you, if we didn't have Kelvin on board, this would probably not be happening today. Steve Bloess put together what we called the Yes-Yes campaign,” Kehde said.

Sedalia voters approved the 78,000-square foot community center in a special election Aug. 6 by an 80 percent margin.

The ballot measure proposed a one-eighth-cent sales tax increase for public parks and stormwater control. The election also asked voters to remove the sunset clause from an existing capital improvement sales tax.

The cost of the community center would not exceed $20 million, it was reported at the time. The increase in funding will pay for the principal, but not the rest of the cost.

Sue Heckart proposed to pay the interest on bonds, with naming rights to the community center. The only stipulation was that the project be completed in time for the 20th anniversary of her mother Stella's death, March 18, 2021.

“She really wanted the community center to be open today, be we could just not make that happen. So we'll be doing that next year at this time,” Epple pointed out.

The project was later expanded to 92,000-square-feet, and the general contractor was Paric Construction, based out of St. Louis.

The Heckart Community Center has always been a dream of Sue Heckart’s, because it was an opportunity for her to honor the legacy of her parents Dell and Stella Heckart while investing in the people of Sedalia.

A ground-breaking ceremony was held June 12, 2020.

One year ago, Heckart named the 2021 MPRA Philanthropist of the Year, and was presented with a plaque by Gary Gates, MPRA executive director, after showing a video that featured Heckart and the then under-construction Heckart Community Center. Gov. Mike Parson attended the event at Convention Hall. Parson was unable to attend the grand opening Friday, due to being overseas on a trade mission to Ireland and the United Kingdom. He has since returned to Missouri.

In her speech, Sue Heckart thanked everyone involved in the project “from the bottom of my heart.”

More information about the Heckart is available online at:

https://www.sedaliaparks.com/heckart-community-center/
or call the Parks & Rec office at 826-4930 or email info@sedaliaparks.com.