A state-of-the-art recreation center is envisioned as a future anchor to a redeveloped downtown Fort Dodge.
The project was announced in January 2012.
That month, the Fort Dodge Community Recreation Center purchased the former Fareway supermarket for $425,000.
-Messenger photo by Hans Madsen
The REC associate director Matt Hanson, left, and director Dave Pierson look over the inside of the former Fareway Foods building which has been purchased by the center.
Long-term plans call for construction of an 80,000- to 95,000-square-foot structure on that site.
Though no time table has yet been set for construction, planning will go forward in 2013, said Randy Kuhlman, president of the Fort Dodge Community Recreation Center's board of directors.
In the more immediate future, the REC will use the existing building on site to provide a new series of fitness programs, said Dave Pearson, executive director of the REC.
The former Fareway building will be remodeled to provide equipment for cross-training style workouts, according to Pearson.
"It's more of a real-life, hands-on, total body workout," Pearson said.
These will include a track with obstacles, he said.
"It's kind of like a jungle gym for adults," he said.
The new location is slated to open in February, said Pearson.
In addition to providing space for new programming, remodeling the Fareway building is a clear demonstration that the REC is still committed to the downtown location, Pearson said.
"We're trying to do everything possible to grow our membership base." he said.
Growing the REC's membership base will, hopefully, help demonstrate the need for and support of a new facility, said Pearson.
Since 2006, the number of REC members has grown from 1,500 to 4,000, according to Pearson.
That year, the reorganization began a partnership with Iowa Central Community College to provide a satellite fitness facility on campus.
Such partnerships are a key component to the REC's continued growth, Pearson said.
In January, the REC announced a partnership with Snap Fitness, 2105 Fifth Ave. S., in which joint memberships will allow people to use the Snap facilities - which are open 24 hours - as well as the REC's locations in the city.
"We're trying to eliminate any reason you would not want to be a member of the Fort Dodge REC Center," said Pearson, with a laugh.
The current Fareway project, though beneficial to the REC's programming, is a temporary measure, Kuhlman said.
Eventually, the structure will be torn down to make way for a purpose-built structure.
Proponents of the new facility envision a building loaded with such amenities as multiple swimming areas and several basketball and volleyball courts.
As announced in 2012, the new facility would include:
Though formal plans have yet to be developed, the new center, which would cost an estimated $20 million to $30 million, would include:
A 25,000-square-foot gymnasium offering four basketball/volleyball courts
A recreational pool with slides and fountains
A six-lane lap pool
A 900-square-foot therapy pool
An 8,000-square-foot cardio-fitness center
A 200-meter indoor track
A 2,000-square-foot aerobics and exercise room
A two-level indoor playground
6,000 square feet of adjustable conference rooms
A food court offering healthy lunches, beverages and snacks.
At that time, Kuhlman identified seven key reasons why the downtown location was selected.
According to Kuhlman:
1. The central location of the downtown area makes the facility easily accessible for adults, students, families and youths in all four corners of the community.
2. The new recreation center would serve as an "anchor" to the city's downtown redevelopment plan. The downtown location provides tremendous potential for expanded retail and housing development, which supports the goal of the downtown redevelopment plan.
3. The downtown business owners through the Self-Supported Municipal Investment District are supportive and enthused about the planning committee's decision to locate a new facility in the downtown area.
4. A new facility will add to the attractiveness of the downtown center and will draw hundreds of people downtown on a daily basis.
5. The downtown location offers the space requirement needed for an 80,000- to 95,000-square-foot facility with more than adequate parking.
6. The downtown location is in the federal new market tax credit zone, which makes the project eligible to apply for federal new market tax credits that could amount to $6 to $7 million. Areas outside the downtown center are not in the new market tax credit zone and do not qualify for these credits.
7. With so much recent development on the east side of Fort Dodge, having a major development project in the downtown area offers balance in terms of private community development investment.
Kuhlman said that planning for the facility slowed in 2012 due to ongoing debate on the Fort Dodge City Council regarding downtown development - in particular, uncertainty regarding the controversial crosstown connector. Initial proposals for the facility call for using space that would be available once Second Avenue South is vacated and removed adjacent to the former Fareway property.
A plan approved by the council in December 2012 calls for the connector to be completed by 2017. The proposed plan calls for connecting First and Second avenues south with a new curving section of road near Fourth Street in 2014. It also calls for rebuilding the section between Eighth and 10th streets in 2015. The council voted to accept $711,600 in state grant funding for the project in September.
Throughout 2013, Kuhlman said that REC proponents will work to educate members of the community about the need for and benefits of the new facility.
"We're hearing from primary sector employers that a facility of this kind would be a huge asset as they are aggressively trying to recruit and retain employees," he said.