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CdA hopes to secure facility grant

Coeur d’Alene residents may not know until February whether the Salvation Army will build a $29 million community center on Ramsey Road.

The local committee working to secure a Kroc Center grant must first prove to the Salvation Army that Kootenai County can sustain a gigantic facility that would include an aquatic center, educational center, 800-seat performing arts center and field house.

The committee, which is a mix of local leaders, business people, grant writers and the Coeur d’Alene mayor, is anxiously waiting for the national headquarters to send specific instructions on how to show that membership fees, donations and grants can keep the center running in the years to come. Coeur d’Alene and the seven other finalists expect that information next month. It could take six months to complete the sustainability requirements that will include the creation of a five-year budget. Then the Salvation Army will announce the winners.

“Everyone needs to understand one or two more centers are likely to get cut in phase two,” said Maj. John Chamness of the Salvation Army’s northwest division in Seattle. “It’s still in a competitive phase and it still could get cut, so you need to demonstrate why a Kroc center is needed in Coeur d’Alene.”

Coeur d’Alene is competing against seven other towns in the West: three California cities, Denver, Honolulu, Phoenix and Salem, Ore.

McDonald’s heiress Joan B. Kroc bestowed $1.5 billion on the Salvation Army – the largest donation ever given to a charity – to build community centers modeled after the $57 million Ray and Joan Kroc Corps Community Center in San Diego.

The Coeur d’Alene grant would come with a matching endowment – also up to $29 million – to help pay about 30 percent of annual maintenance and operation costs. The remainder would come from memberships, user fees, donations and other grants.

Coeur d’Alene raised $1.3 million in six weeks to demonstrate its ability to keep a Kroc center running. Chamness said that’s a good start, but more proof is needed.

He said the Salvation Army knows how difficult it is to finance a community center filled with expensive-to-maintain features like swimming pools.

The San Diego Kroc center is losing money because it has 280 full-time employees, three pools, an ice-skating rink, numerous gyms and a 600-seat performing arts center. According to its Web site, the center as of December 2003 had about 1,523 daily users and must generate $4.2 million a year to keep the showcase facility running.

“We’ve seen what occurred in San Diego and we know what the challenges are,” Chamness said.

The Coeur d’Alene committee thinks it has a proposal that is manageable and doesn’t have any extravagant features such as an ice arena that could break the budget. The group was cognizant of that during the planning stage, when a conceptual design and size were presented to the Salvation Army.

“We’re a lot more realistic,” said Victoria Bruno, a city of Coeur d’Alene project manager working with the committee.

The sustainability phase will require Coeur d’Alene to develop a five-year budget that will show how many employees are needed to run the center and the total amount of expenses and operating costs. The budget also must show revenue.

The Salvation Army will provide finalists with money to hire consultants to help with budget creation and any other plans that will be outlined in the phase two instructions.


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