Special Olympics Missouri's new campus opens to fanfare

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JEFFERSON CITY - After Special Olympics Missouri dedicated their new "Training for Life Campus" Thursday afternoon, athlete and staff member Thomas Cleek was grateful.

"This is a dream come true," Cleek said, "to even have this kind of faciilty, to train and play sports." 

Cleek is one of the organization's 15,000 competitors.

The 34,000 square-foot facility has been under construction since May 2017, and the ceremony attracted some high-profile Missouri politicians. Gov. Mike Parson, Sen. Roy Blunt and former Gov. Jay Nixon all gave speeches at the ceremony.

"Missouri has the premier Training for Life Campus anywhere," Blunt said. "Today, Missouri goes from the Show-Me State to the Show-You State."

"This isn't just another training facility, it is the first of its kind in the world," Gov. Parson said. "In Missouri! How about that?"

The new $14.2 million facility will offer free health screenings and leadership classes for the athletes in Special Olympics Missouri, as well as hosting practices and tournaments for the 21 sports offered year-round by the organization. In addition to a 300-meter track and a .7 mile walking trail outside, the basketball/volleyball arena inside can also hold up to 650 people.

"For me, this campus represents opportunity," Brandon Schatsiek, multimedia and athlete leadership manager for Special Olympics Missouri, said. "We only have about 15,000 athletes statewide right now, which may sound like a lot, but there are more than 106,000 estimated people with intellectual disabilities in this state that aren't yet involved in this program. We think by having this campus centrally located, it's going to allow us to expand everything we have in Special Olympics to a new population."

The new facility has been in the pipeline since 2008. That's half of the time Cleek has spent in Special Olympics Missouri. He's been on staff at the campus for about a month, and the opportunity is not lost on him. 

"I'm really excited... this is really a dream job for me, to be able to work here and show people that even though you have a disability, you can work and be successful in life. This is a place I can call home," he said.

The entirety of the 16.5 acre plot, valued at $3.2 million, was donated to the organization by the Twehous and Farmer families.  

For more information on the new Training for Life Campus, visit Special Olympics Missouri's website.