The Mayor's Task Force for a Community/Recreation Center has completed a study of the economic feasibility of the proposed project and concluded that potential income for a community center can make the project fly.
Mayor Jon Kruse announced Thursday that the project will move to the next phase, with an architectural layout already in the works and a capital plan for construction now to begin.
"The future looks bright for a facility in the Storm Lake area," Kruse said. "Most communities our size have had community/recreation center facilities for many years. If our community is going to continue to grow and prosper, we need this facility."
Preliminary plans call for a community center with both an outdoor aquatic center and an indoor pool for year-around use, according to Kruse. Also to be included is a large gymnasium, physical fitness areas, gymnastics area, and multi-purpose areas for community events. The center could host athletic events, trade shows, family gatherings, Community Ed programs and other ongoing civic functions.
Site discussions are now focused on a single location - the land owned by Buena Vista Regional Medical Center in the area of the Fitness & Health Center off Highway 7 in the west part of the city, according to City Administrator John Call. "We should stress that no land has been optioned or purchased at this point, and if that site for some reason did not work out, there would still be the potential for the project to continue in some other area."
Land owned by the school district near the existing middle school has not been ruled out as an option, he said. That site had been offered several years ago in an earlier attempt to build a community center. Both medical center and school district officials have in the past expressed an interest in working with city officials toward a community development, but no land has formally been offered at this point.
The mayor's task force has reviewed the perceived needs and wants of community members and attempted to build them into the plan, Kruse said.
"Progress has been slow and deliberate by the task force," he said, noting that organizational efforts have come a long way toward planning and operations for a community center for both citizens of Storm Lake and the surrounding area.
Task force members have carefully explored the potential costs, operating budgets and staffing needs in determining that the project would make economic sense. "The task force has concluded that there is an adequate income stream to meet the operational needs of the facility," Kruse said.
Now, the task force members will begin to seek out potential funding sources. "It is expected that a large portion of this project will be funded through donations by individuals, corporations and foundations," the mayor said. "Other potential sources include public grants. Included will be an endowment for depreciation."
One option would be to apply to the Vision Iowa program's cultural attractions and tourism CAT fund program, Call said, although city officials have not committed to that, or indicated that the project could not be completed without funds from the state. No deadline has been set for entering an application from the city, although the long-term future of the Vision Iowa program could be uncertain in the economic climate of the state.
As work on a Community/Recreation Center operations plan gets underway, the task force will be making the determinations about who will operate the facility and how it will be run, according to Kruse.
A presentation will be put together that will share the project with the public and various civic organizations, and should be completed soon, task force members indicated this week. Another meeting of the task force is planned within a few weeks.
The mood of the recent decisive task force meeting was quite upbeat, Call indicates. "I think these people are pretty enthusiastic about this idea. I think they are finally starting to feel like a step is being made from concept toward possibly being a reality for Storm Lake."