Kroc center workshop generates ideas

THURSDAY, DEC. 15, 2005

If the Salvation Army builds a community center in Coeur d’Alene it’s sure to include swimming pools, if the input at a public workshop Wednesday has any weight.

But it’s too soon to tell what other big ticket items will make it into the final design for the proposed Ray & Joan Kroc Corps Community Center the city hopes to land.

Luke Griffin, the father of a 10-year-old hockey player, is lobbying for an ice rink.

“It would get huge support,” he said Wednesday. “It blows me away, we’re so close to Canada. There you have little towns of 10,000 people and they all have rinks.”

The city is in the final stage of a competition for a $30 million community center, which would come with a $30 million endowment to help cover operating expenses.

The competitive grants were made possible by the estate of McDonald’s restaurant heiress Joan Kroc, who willed her $1.5 billion estate to the Salvation Army to build community centers nationwide. Coeur d’Alene is competing with seven other communities across the Western states. Anywhere from five to all eight of the center may be funded, said Steve Blackburn of Barker Rinker Seacat, a Denver architecture firm hired by the Salvation Army to lead the team designing Coeur d’Alene’s Kroc center.

The competition is stiff, said Mayor Sandi Bloem, and it will be critical for Coeur d’Alene to design a center that can sustain itself. While the $30 million endowment will help cover the cost of operations and maintenance, the interest is expected to cover only about 25 percent of the cost of running the center, she said. “We have to know we can generate the rest,” she said.

Participants in Wednesday’s workshop at Coeur d’Alene High School were shown a presentation of the facilities that could be included in the center, as well as how much each item would cost and whether it would generate revenue.

A competition-sized swimming pool, for instance, generally loses money. But a warmer recreational pool with slides and other play features generates income. Packaged together, the recreational pool can help support a pool for competition.

Posters with each of the facilities were put on the walls, and participants were given six green dot stickers and asked to vote by placing them on the posters. “I’m putting my dots toward swimming,” said René Heiner, who has a child who swims competitively. “There’s no place in the community to swim. We don’t have a regulation-sized pool.”

After architectural and site preparation work, $22 million will remain build the facility.

From that, it will cost $3.6 million for locker rooms, office space and other infrastructure and $1.2 million for the chapel, a Salvation Army requirement. That leaves an estimated $17.2 million to build everything else.

Among the reasonably priced offerings that garnered a lot of votes were a climbing wall, a multi-activity court that could be used for indoor soccer, a walking and jogging track, a community room with kitchen, a fitness facility to serve people who can’t afford to join health clubs, and a regular gymnasium.

While the swimming pools clearly were the most popular at Wednesday’s workshop, other popular big-ticket items were a field house, performing arts theater and an ice rink.

Given the Salvation Army’s budget, there’s no way all of them can be built.

Like the swimmers, hockey players are passionate advocates, Blackburn said, and then asked, “How many ice people put all their dots on the ice rink?”

Griffin raised his hand and was greeted with some laughter, but later he said he really only put two of his dots there.

A final decision on which cities will get the Kroc community centers is expected in about six months.


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