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story.lead_photo.caption Twenty-five youths participated in the Jr. NBA Skills Challenge Feb. 12, 2017, and a dozen of them moved on to the regional competition in Indianapolis, Indiana. It was the first event held at the new Wellness Center, in advance of a Feb. 20, 2017 soft opening. Photo by Gerry Tritz / Fulton Sun.

Sunday's Jr. NBA Skills Challenge was a low-key basketball competition hosted by Jefferson City's parks department.

Low-key but notable. Not just because it was the first time the event was held locally, but because it marked the first event held at the new wellness center.

The Lincoln University Wellness and Parks Multi-Purpose Recreation Center has yet to open — a soft opening is planned for Feb. 20 — but Sunday's event gave the competitors and their families a sneak peak at the sprawling 80,000-square-foot center. The gym alone is 22,000 square feet.

Some weren't even aware it was the first event at the center, a joint project between Lincoln University and the city's Department of Parks, Recreation and Forestry. But everyone interviewed gave thumbs up to both the center and the event.

"It's very nice. It's open, clean. I'm looking forward to tournaments here," said Jesse Daniel, 12, who was second in his division, qualifying him to move on to the regional event in Indianapolis.

The national competition challenges boys and girls in both 12-under and 14-under age divisions to dribble, shoot and rebound within time constraints.

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Angie Toebben, a recreation supervisor for the parks department, said despite using just one court, no one had to wait long to compete. The staff was able to get everyone in and out in less than an hour.

"I thought it went fine," she said. "There were a good number (of competitors) for the first time."

The center will be open every day of the year, open most days from 6 a.m.-10 p.m. The cost to use the center varies, but a typical adult day pass will be $5. Season passes will be offered, but the cost has not yet been determined.

The building, on Lincoln's campus beside Dwight T. Reed Stadium, provides a mammoth fieldhouse, elevated jogging/walking track, 21st century fitness center, classrooms, community rooms, entertainment facilities and, on the lower level, a home for the Lincoln football team as well as the national champion men's and women's track and field teams.

Eleven members of the Parks have moved into the main level of the Wellness Center, which is also across from Jefferson City High School.

Greg Jones brought his daughter Addison to compete on Sunday, and gave the center high marks.

"I think it's going to be great for the community," he said. "It's something Jeff City's been needing for awhile and I'm glad to see it all came together. It looks great."

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