Vision 2020 to offer rec center forum

Published 7:01 am Sunday, September 15, 2013

Vision 2020 is offering residents an opportunity to give input on a community recreation center project.

The Community Rec Center Forum will take place from noon to 1 p.m. and from 5:30 to 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 24 at the Hormel Historic Home. Vision 2020 volunteers will share the results of a recent feasibility study while residents can give their thoughts on the project, which organizers will use during the planning process.

“We know that, the nature of studies and surveys is that they don’t talk to everyone,” Laura Helle, Vision 2020’s director of creative vision, said. “We wanted to give them a forum.”

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Helle said the rec center committee is working on bringing local partners together before nailing down specific project details, which is why volunteers wanted to get input on the project now.

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.

“We had a lot of assumptions and sort of conventional wisdom, and now we have data and a study that backs up what we’re thinking,” Helle said.

She also said this would likely be the first of several forums for residents to give input on the rec center project as it moves forward. Though the committee doesn’t yet have solid deadlines for the rec center process, Helle estimates Vision 2020 may break ground on the project in 2015.