Forums open rec center to the public

Published 3:45 pm Thursday, March 12, 2015

Vision 2020 will hold community forums next week to share our process and seek feedback from residents on the Community Recreation Center. Forums are offered at 5:30 p.m., Wednesday and noon on Thursday at noon at the Austin Public Library.

These forums are one piece in our process of engaging the community to determine needs and priorities around recreation and healthy living.

We started back in 2011, when Vision 2020 launched and we collected ideas from the public. More than 750 individual ideas related to recreation were submitted at that time. Specific recreation topics included an indoor playground, fitness, healthy community programming, sports, youth, a community center, bicycling and the YMCA.

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All those ideas were researched and developed by the Idea Selection Committee. They discovered health and wellness centers across the U.S. that helped inspire this Vision Statement: “Create a year-round recreation center of architectural significance which will be a welcoming place for everyone in our community to meet, exercise, and play. The recreation campus will have state-of-the-art fitness facilities such as a family aquatic center, practice facilities, and programs supporting healthy living in a safe, affordable environment.”

Next, a committee formed to bring the Vision Statement into reality. That team is lead by Matt Cano and Tanya Medgaarden. Since starting in May 2012, the committee has involved the key community partners that are local experts on health, wellness, sports and fitness including the City of Austin Park and Rec, the YMCA of Austin, Austin Public and athletics staff at Riverland Community College, Mower Refreshed and Austin Public Schools.

The Community Recreation Center committee visited five centers in cities in the Twin Cities metro and the new center in Osage, Iowa. Committee members have gathering budget and governance information from community centers around the country with a special focus on centers that are a partnership of local entities such as units of government, school districts and YMCAs.

In the summer of 2013, the committee conducted a feasibility study to measure and quantify community support for a Community Recreation Center. The study contacted a statistically significant number of households in Austin and Mower County: 400 residents and 100 households with a fitness affinity. The study also conducted focus groups with parents of young children and Hispanic households. Key leaders in the community were interviewed as well.

All along this process, the Community Recreation Center meetings are open to the public and we have had many residents give input on their priorities for health and wellness facilities.

A project website ( went live in August 2014 and residents are using it to contact committee leaders with thoughts and questions.

We look forward to more interaction with Austin residents as we continue the conversation about healthy living at the forums on March 11 and March 12.