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Community Center moves forward

FAIRMONT– The Community Center Advisory Board was introduced to Tom Betti of 292 Design Group, the architecture which will be leading the programming and design for the proposed community center, during its meeting on Wednesday afternoon.

“This is really in our wheel house. We have worked a lot on community centers, ice arenas, aquatic centers and field houses for well over 30 years,” Betti said.

He said there was a stakeholder programming session last week where they talked about the spaces desired in the building as well as the overall size of the building.

“I don’t think anyone was asking for the world. I think they were being reasonable in what their needs and desires are,” Betti said.

The five main components of the project are a field house, aquatics, ice, multi-purpose fitness and then the “glue” which includes hallways and lobbies. The next step is looking at square footage and concept ideas on how to put it all together.

Dick Strassburg of Tegra, the city’s owners representative on the project, said anytime a big project like this is started, they consider all of the potential needs in the community. However, Strassburg said the project is oversized for what they see communities like this being able to handle. He said a lot of time features will be added in phases.

“Another big picture comment is.. coming into this community, you have a declining age in this community. Where is the future of the community in the next 20 or 30 years and what’s attracting young people?” Strassburg said.

He said here, like in other communities, they see labor shortages and daycare shortages.

“You don’t have a lot of young people coming back here. The demographics here, honestly, they don’t look really good. That’s not atypical. That’s one of the draws we see with a community center,” Strassburg said.

As for features of the community center, Strassburg said they need to separate the wants from the needs.

Betti shared some more specifics that were discussed at the stakeholder meeting. Board Member Brandon Edmundson questioned how many more stakeholders meetings would be had before they’re ready to move forward.

“I think we’re at a point where we can put a general design together,” Betti said.

Board Member Mike Edman asked whether the YMCA was involved in the stakeholder meeting and Betti said they were, which was critical because operations will be a big driver in the design process. He also said 292 Design Group has worked with the YMCA on projects in the past.

Edmundson pointed out that the YMCA has been retained by the Fairmont Area Community Center Foundation to begin retaining operational cost estimates.

Edman asked what kind of timeline they’re looking at and Betti said they’re hoping to get through the step one schematic design by November.

Board Member Randy Lubenow said that one of the things that the community wants is a swimming pool so when talking about what to include and what to wait on, it would be hard to sell to the community without including a pool from the get-go.

Board Member Michele Miller added that hockey (ice) is also a big draw and one that will bring in revenue.

Moving back to the timeline, Edmundson said that from a fundraising standpoint, they need to be able to bring a design to the city council by the end of the year. He stressed the importance of the board holding to a November date.

“We are far away from where we started on this and it’s causing problems. It’s causing problems with donors, in the community and it’s causing further division in the community because it looks like things are not moving,” Edmundson said.

He suggested that moving forward, a representative of the Foundation, the YMCA and various contractors be present at the monthly Community Center Advisory Board meetings. He also added that the board could start meeting bi-weekly moving forward if need be.

As for next steps, Strassburg said they should be getting some general concept designs from the stakeholder meeting in the next two to three weeks. Those will then go to construction manager, Kraus Anderson, for pricing and cost estimates.

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