PILOT EDITORIAL - A place for Storm Lake in CAT fund

Thursday, January 25, 2001

As expected, there is no shortage of hands outstretched for the state's expanded Cultural Attractions and Tourism (CAT) Fund, but also as expected, there is nothing else quite like Storm Lake's proposal in the mix.

Storm Lake has made its plan for a Community Diversity Center known to the Vision Iowa people, but has not yet made a formal application for funds.

The project is an imaginative combination of recreation (gym, pool, fitness areas) with culture (a performance arena and stage) and a unique twist of ethnic diversity with an exhibit hall, meeting places and programming to encourage and celebrate Storm Lake's diverse inclusive population.

In a preliminary list of applications received as of early this month, Vision Iowa/CAT Fund officials find plenty of recreation projects - a family YMCA-pool for Algona, a $17.5 million Recreation/Aquatic Center/Nature Preserve for Ames, a wellness center for Estherville, a wellness/YMCA Center for Atlantic,a multi-recreation complex for Lake Park, recreation center for Maquoketa, recreation centers for Peosta Hampton and Fairfield, tennis complex for Red Oak for $500,000, a $20 million amphitheater and indoor hockey rink for Urbandale.

The CAT Fund will be asked to weigh lots of arts projects too - a $2.2 million Cedar Rapids theater renovation, Glenn Miller center for Clarinda, a theater for Iowa City, an arts center for Grinnell, performing arts center for Mason City, community/arts center for Osceola, Clark County arena/expo hall, $3.3 million All Seasons Center for Sioux Center.

There are community centers aplenty.

Even the cultural diversity angle is being touched upon. There's a German American Center for Davenport, Chinese Cultural Center for Des Moines, Hindu Museum for Madrid, Heart of Iowa Cultural and Recreation Center for $17.5 million in Marshalltown, Ottumwa Heritage Park, an Institute for Religious Tolerance for Stuart, Waterloo's African American Museum.

Nobody, but nobody is combining all of these ideas into one, and reaching out to all people. Except Storm Lake.

The applications even include plenty of projects around the state that Storm Lake and Buena Vista County have already done for themselves without asking for state funding: a lighthouse landmark, a couple of fairgrounds improvement plans, a tree museum or two, a Santa's Village and a plethora of local museum ideas.

The Vision Iowa/CAT Fund programs have already lived up to their promises - they have sparked lots of big thinking and plenty of imaginative ideas to go with the predictable racetracks and gyms. Like an Iowa Hall of Pride,a Conservation and Education Center, an Equestrian Center, an Icarian Center (we had to look that one up), World Food Prize Center, a dinner train, a Dutch Windmill Museum, Renaissance Village, and on and on.

The thinking is probably as important as the building. Not all of the ideas will be funded, or realized, but the epic sense of possibility has kindled Iowa pride and imagination in new ways.

For all of the wonderful ideas from all corners of the state, we still see nothing that stands to do as much to touch people's lives in so many personal ways as the unique combination that makes up the Storm Lake Diversity Community Center idea.

It may be for the best that the committee misses the first overwhelming, swarm of applications.

When Storm Lake's application arrives in Des Moines next summer, we would hope that it draws an "ahhhh" of contentment - here is the kind of sweeping "vision" that the Vision Iowa concept was born to look for, all along.