Rec center committee shares its visionPublished 10:25am Wednesday, September 25, 2013
Though Vision 2020 organizers have made progress toward a community recreation center, there are still many questions to be answered before construction can start.
Vision 2020 officials told community members as much during two open forums at the Hormel Historic Home Tuesday, where area residents learned the results of a rec center feasibility study and heard about the next steps organizers need to take in the project.
“It’s not something that we’ll build and then we’ll close a year or two down the road,” Tanya Medgaarden, Community Recreation Center Committee co-chair, said.
Residents, along with city and school officials, asked several questions about the committee’s timeline, cost projections and rec center amenities.
One resident asked whether taxpayer money would go toward the project, as Vision 2020 will likely partner with the YMCA, Austin Public Schools, Riverland Community College and the city of Austin among other organizations to build the rec center. Committee Co-Chair Matt Cano said the committee hasn’t yet determined whether volunteers would seek taxpayer dollars.
“We’re looking at all resources that make sense,” he told the audience. “Nothing has been ruled in or ruled out at this point.”
In addition, the committee has yet to determine what sort of amenities the facility would provide, though the feasibility survey did show residents wanted more indoor activities, access to bike trails, an indoor pool/water park, an indoor field of some sort, and more.
“We’re working on matching the study data with spacing,” Medgaarden said.
Resident Gary Olson said he would like to see tennis courts at the new facility.
“It’s something that’s needed in the community,” he said.
The feasibility study, performed by Anderson, Niebuhr & Associates Inc. of the Twin Cities, found 58 percent of Austin and nearby residents would either definitely, probably or maybe join a new YMCA/rec center, 90 percent of current members would continue at an upgraded facility, and 41 percent of resident who wouldn’t join the Y would at some point use a pay-per-use portion of the rec center
The $54,000 study used in-depth phone interviews with 21 “influential community members,” a focus group of Hispanic families and parents with young children, and surveys with 100 current Austin YMCA members, 350 Austin residents and 50 Mower County residents near Austin. It was accurate within plus or minus 10 percentage points for YMCA members and plus or minus 5 percentage points for residents, and assumed a Y membership would be $45 monthly for individuals and $65 for families.
Cano said organizers are talking with partner groups to identify major needs and address them moving forward. While no group will get everything they want, organizers hope the compromises will lead to a stronger center. Cano also said he hoped more feasibility studies and a business plan could be done within the next year, though organizers estimate the project won’t be shovel-ready until 2015 at the earliest.
“It’s still in its infancy,” said Mayor Tom Stiehm. Stiehm said he enjoyed the presentation but cautioned that if volunteers try to seek taxpayer funding, they’ll need to create and sell a strong plan for the rec center.
“If it’s that good of a project, I think the people will support it,” he said.
Still, several residents were excited about the possibilities a new rec center could offer. Area soccer coach Enrique Camarena-Corzo said he’s excited for the project, which he thinks could be a tourism boon for Austin.
“I think this community is great, and having something like this would bring many people to Austin to see just how good a community we are,” he said.