Friday, December 27, 2013

Ray Leisure Park

Ray Leisure Park is 1 of 108 St. Louis parks, making up 7.31 of the total 2,956 acres of park land. The park was placed into ordinance in 1958 and is in the LaSalle Neighborhood.


The park is bordered by Park Avenue to the north, Tucker Boulevard to the west, Carroll Street to the south and Menard Street to the east:


The park gets its name from Ray Leisure, relation of the Middle Eastern (Lebanese, Syrian) local political/crime figures (along with the current Mayor Slay's family) who were involved in several car bombings, high ranking union jobs and various gangster rackets.  Read all about the Leisure family HERE.

The park has a softball field, a cool old playground, a former rollerskating rink which is no longer there and is now used for basketball, a boxing gym, indoor pool, and a community center with parking lot.

This community rec center seems to be a very important one for the community and just has a damn good feel about it.  How do I know?  I went for a visit awhile back and was not able to get a tour of the community center as the employees working the front desk wanted approval from the supervisor who was not available at the time of my visit.  I talked to these women for probably 30 minutes about the area.  One woman lived in Pruitt-Igoe and was moved to the Peabody Darst Webbe high rises when P-I was finally closed.  I got some great stories and perspectives; one of which was that this one person preferred the high rise configuration to the individual houses that exist now in PDW, where she now lives.

I was determined to get a view of the rec center so I came back, this time the supervisor was there, as were my acquaintances at the front desk, who kibitzed with me again about Pruitt-Igoe.  The supervisor gave me a brief history of the rich boxing history in St. Louis and ran down a list of prominent names that came through this place to train and spar.  I met the boxing coach/trainer who is a really nice guy (tried to recruit my 7 year old) and got a peak at the beautifully maintained and highly used facility.

This place just has a good feel as patrons entering get greeted by first name, etc.  People stop and talk to the front desk ladies.  Nice feel.

As I was saying thanks and good bye, we started talking about P-I again and dreamt of doing a P-I documentary that interviews others with different perspectives who lived in the complex up until the final days and how they were transitioned to other parts of the city.

Anyhow, back to the park.

Outside, there is a small parking lot that is landscaped quite nicely with street trees and tall grasses.


There is a basketball court and softball field, complete with benches for spectators and players:





The playground includes several jungle gyms, a swing set and an awesome vintage rocket slide (the only one I've seen to date in the city).







There is also a former tether ball pole and volleyball court that is no longer in use:



The Recreation Center itself was built in 1970:



Inside there is a basketball court and indoor pool on the first floor.



And a boxing gym and weight room upstairs.



The rec center provides good views of the former City Hospital, now Georgian Condos, etc.


The surrounding neighborhood includes the subsidized and public housing to the west and north, and LaSalle classics to the east and south.





The rec center provides a highly used and important service for the surrounding community and city at large.  The boxing facility is part of our history and hopefully will continue on for many years to come.

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