Our Opinion: Time to speak out on rec center

Published 10:09 am Monday, March 14, 2016

No matter what your opinion is on Vision 2020’s plan to build a $35 million community rec center at the downtown Austin Municipal Plant site, now is the time to learn about the plan, form opinion on the project and make your voice heard.

That’s because it’s likely the plan will either be moving forward or heading back to the drawing board long before Austin students bid farewell to the 2015-16 school year and summer takes hold.

That makes it vitally important that Austin residents read up on a plan that could have significant impacts on Austin and see if it’s something they want for the community.

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But the public still has time to discuss the plans. Vision 2020 will host two public forums at noon and 7 p.m. on March 15 in the large meeting room of Austin Public Library.

But the ball is already fast in motion. Last Tuesday, the Austin Utilities Board voted 5-0 to approve a conditional purchase agreement to sell the former plant to the city of Austin for roughly $2 million, which will largely fund the relocation of Austin Utilities services currently housed at the site along with the demolition to make the site construction-ready for the rec center and to undertake environmental mitigation.

If approved, the building will feature a public portion and a portion that will be a new YMCA.

No public money is currently slated to be used for the purchase or construction of the $35 million rec center. The Hormel Foundation has pledged $25 million for the project, Hormel Foods Corp. has pledged $5 million, and Vision 2020 aims to raise $5 million in a capital campaign.

But over the next few days, the city should also finalize the terms of a roughly $200,000 a year, 30-year operating agreement for the YMCA to operate the city’s public portions of the rec center.

Both the operating and purchase agreements could be discussed at an Austin City Council work Session as soon as March 21, which means the City Council could vote on the plan as soon as early April.

Not everyone is for the plan. Early this year, Quin Brunner and Austin City Council member Janet Anderson formed a Facebook group, penned a letter and started a Change.org petition to call for the parties involved to slow down and give the community more time to discuss potential uses for the downtown plant and potential locations for the rec center. The group is nearing 200 signatures on a petition on Change.org and broke 300 likes on Facebook, as they’ve heard a lot of people voice their concerns.

They would like to see the rec center built somewhere else so the municipal plant can be maintained and developed for other uses.

With a plan that’s already drawn a range of opinions and operating costs of about $200,000 year for three decades, public opinion is sure to be vital moving forward. Read up on the plan, attend a meeting and talk to your council member.

Community contacts

Greg Siems, Director Vision 2020


Mayor Tom Stiehm


City Council

Janet Anderson


David Hagen


Michael Jordal


Jeremy Carolan


Jeff Austin


Steve King


Judy Enright



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