The architectural firm Design Alliance of Waukee unveiled its top location for a new community center during the Decorah Park-Rec Board meeting last month. The firm is proposing the facility be built on city property where recycling bins and a softball diamond are now located off Claiborne Drive, west of the new tennis courts. Above is Design Alliance’s rendering of the proposed facility.
A consulting firm working with a local planning committee has recommended a new $8 to $10 million community center be built across the street from Decorah City Hall.
However, more potential sites need to be identified over the next year, according to Decorah Park and Recreation Director Andy Nimrod.
The architectural firm Design Alliance of Waukee unveiled its top location for a new community center during the Decorah Park-Rec Board last month. The firm is proposing the facility be built on city property where recycling bins and a softball diamond are now located off Claiborne Drive, west of the new tennis courts. It would include a large gymnasium that could be divided into multiple courts, a track, meeting rooms, multi-purpose rooms and the city's Park-Rec offices.
"They did an excellent presentation ... there was a lot of excitement over seeing it and a lot of apprehension over the cost," Nimrod said.
But Nimrod said the planning committee was tasked with coming up with a concept the community needs, not how to finance it.
Design Alliance was hired in July for $14,500 to help the Park-Rec Board through the process of determining community needs for a recreation and wellness center, then designing a community center to meet them.
The Park-Rec Board provided Design Alliance with five possible sites for a community center, and 12 community members were selected to serve as a planning committee that met with Design Alliance six times. The 12 members of the committee are City Council member Gary Rustad, Park-Rec Board members Rich Gaard and Kent Klocke, Ann Kephart, Keith Bruening, Joe Grimstad, Rich Reiser, Andy Nelson, Mike Harman, Sarah Larson, Michelle Whitehill and Rick Edwards, former Park-Rec director. Edwards and Klocke were later replaced by Greg Lane, John Hjelle and Cindy Albers on the Planning Committee.
Ultimately six sites were studied: The Army Reserve Center, the former Wapsie Produce, Winneshiek Coop, Winneshiek Medical Center campus, the former RC 10 and any location the Decorah School District would consider for a joint project.
After six months of study, Design Alliance recommended the spot across the street from City Hall. The firm used a "site matrix" or scoring system based on different criteria such as adequate parking, utilities, zoning and access to the Trout Run Trail, Nimrod said.
"The No. 2 ball diamond (across from City Hall), rose to the top," Nimrod said.
"The Park-Rec Board has to determine where to go from here ... what they think Decorah needs. They haven't gotten into how it would be funded at all," he said.
Possible funding sources could include bonding or fundraising, he said. The Park-Rec Board doesn't control money and would only be making a recommendation to the City Council, Nimrod said.
"We need a few more options before we make that decision," he said, adding, the final recommendation needs to be one the public would support.
Over the past two decades, several community center proposals have been explored, but none has ever been formally pursued.
Nimrod said he's hopeful there will be three to five options to be considered - one or two from Design Alliance, and the rest coming from the Park-Rec Board.
He said the door remains open for partnering, "possibly with the hospital, the school ... we'd consider anybody," Nimrod said.