Jun. 25—A local recreational center for 50 years has offered several activities for people of all ages to enjoy at no cost
The JI Stipe Center was first built in the 1970s as the Multi-Purpose Center of McAlester before being named after Jacob Irvin Stipe, the father of the late former Oklahoma State Sen. Gene Step.
Offered at the center is a gymnasium used for basketball, volleyball, and a sport rapidly growing in popularity nationwide — pickleball.
“We do that six times a week at various times,” McAlester Community Services Director Doug Basinger said about pickleball.
The gym is also open for “whatever you want to do” at various times during the week.
“You can play basketball, walk around the gym, you can even sit back there and play on your phone if you want too,” Basinger said.
For those who want a more structured activity, the center also offers two activities led by a local instructor.
In an upstairs room that overlooks the gym lies equipment such as medicine balls, dumbbells, and punching bags.
The equipment is part of circuit training led by local fitness instructor Zella Kincaid.
Kincaid posts videos throughout the week on how to complete each workout station correctly which are then shared onto the McAlester Parks and Recreation for users to see.
“You can also do those at home, if you don’t want to come here,” Basinger said.
Kincaid is also a master Taekwondo instructor and offers free classes for adults 18 and older at the center on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 3 pm with hopes of offering a children class in the future.
Basinger said those who wish to participate in the Taekwondo classes will have to purchase a Dobok, the uniformly worn by practitioners of Korean martial arts.
“This is a structured program,” Basinger said. “It’s not just you come and goof around and learn Taekwondo, it’s serious. You have to do all the stuff that you normally do in a serious Taekwondo class, and part of that is having to wear a uniform.”
Participants in the class can test for belts for the cost of the new belt and any material used during the testing.
“But other than that, the class is free,” Basinger said.
The Stipe Center reopened its senior center for in person activities in May which offers a free hot lunch for area seniors 60 and older and a place for seniors to meet.
“We’ve been delivering meals for the last couple of years because of COVID and everything else,” Basinger said.
The center opens at 8 am for seniors Monday through Friday except for city holidays.
“They can come here, and they can drink their coffee or tea. They can talk to their friends. They can play billiards. They can do quilting. Play cards. Just any activity they want to do,” Basinger said.
The center also hosts a popular activity among the visitors of the center.
“We have bingo,” Basinger said. “They really love bingo because we give donated prizes away.”
Lunch is served for the seniors at 11:30 am each day the center is open and serves approximately 4,000 seniors each month.
The center also features a free exercise program for seniors on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday from 9 to 11 am
“It is guided,” Basinger said. “We have an instructor who taught it for years.”
Basinger said some seniors arrive early to get some extra steps in on the 1.25-mile walking trail at the adjacent Rotary Park.
On Tuesday and Thursday, seniors can swim at Jeff Lee Pool from 9:30 am to 10:30 am during the summer months.
“They do water aerobics and it’s taught by the same instructor,” Basinger said.
There is no cost for seniors to participate in the daily activities at the center or the workouts.
“Everything we do here is free,” Basinger said. “We don’t charge anything.”
The center is also able to be rented for events such as birthday parties and family gatherings.
“Now if somebody wants to do something here for free, that’s okay,” Basinger said. “If they are wanting to do something and charge people, they will have to pay for a rental of the facility because they can’t use a city facility for personal gain. But if it’s a free thing for the community, we won’t charge for that.”
To rent the conference room inside the center, it is $50 for three hours, $65 for four hours, and another $10 for ever hour after that.
The gym is $50 an hour and $300 for all day.
Basinger said the rates have to be paid in advance.
For people who have exercise equipment they don’t use anymore, Basinger said the center will accept donations of new or gently used and working exercise equipment
“I they have a treadmill that they bought because they thought they were going to use it and it became a clothes rack, kind of like mine has, and they don’t want it in the way anymore, yeah, we’ll take it , Basinger said.
Any person who donates an item to the center will receive a receipt stating it was a donation.
“We’ll always take free stuff,” Basinger said with a chuckle. “As long as it works.”
For more information about activities at the JI Stipe Center can be obtained by contacting the office at 918-421-4922.
A schedule of events are also posted on social media on the McAlester Parks and Recreation Facebook page.