Thanks are due rec center project

Published 7:01 am Sunday, October 23, 2016

By Greg Siems

Vision 2020 Director

The City Council’s approval of the Community Recreation Center project earlier this week is a major milestone for Austin. Council member King called it a “gift” for the community, and I couldn’t agree with him more. The Council’s proactive support of recreation will pay off in spades down the road in the health and well-being of our fellow Austinites, not to mention the economic development potential that such a facility provides.

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With this vote the council has leveraged $35 million in pledged grants and donations to construct a state-of-the-art facility, all of which has been and will continue to be facilitated by Vision 2020 volunteers. That means no debt to pay off for the city, which translates into huge savings down the road and the ability to create a better facility up front.

The council has committed $100,000 annually once the facility is built (which is only half of what was proposed earlier this year). To put things in perspective, that is less than one half of one percent of the overall city budget. With no public money going toward construction, this is a slam-dunk investment for the city and one that will have far more than just financial benefits.

It is also worth mentioning that this project will have more money invested in it than did the I.J. Holton School construction or The Hormel Institute expansion. We will now be adding yet another incredible asset to our community that we can all be proud of.

Although the process has already been long and is far from over, we’ve finally arrived at a point where we can take a step back and assess the incredible amount of work that’s been done so far. For that, several rounds of thanks are in order:

First, to you, the citizens of Austin, for your participation in and support of the Vision 2020 process. Thousands of ideas about how to improve the community were submitted back in 2011, and the need for more recreational opportunities quickly rose to the top of the list. We wouldn’t be here today if it weren’t for your interest in making our community the best it can be.

Second, to all of the volunteers of the Community Recreation Center committee, which is co-chaired by Matt Cano and Tanya Medgaarden. These folks have dedicated countless hours to researching similar facilities across the state, surveying our community to determine the most pressing needs, and working with stakeholders at every step of the way to ensure that these needs are met. They took the original vision and ran with it, taking considerable time away from their jobs and families to see it through for no compensation and little recognition.

Finally, to the staffs, boards, and councils of the city and YMCA, who have devoted a similar amount of time and energy to establishing a partnership that will benefit the community for decades to come.

There will be plenty more news and updates in the months ahead as we move into the design and programming phase of the project, but for now I think it’s most important to pause, take a breath, and appreciate everything that we’ve achieved together so far. As with anything that happens in our community, the people involved are the most valuable resources we have.