June 28, 2007 in Idaho

Kroc Center work begins

Meghann M. Cuniff Staff writer
Jesse Tinsley photo

Emily Callahan, 9, prepares to join other children Wednesday for the groundbreaking of the Kroc Center in Coeur d’Alene.
(Full-size photo)

An old gravel pit near a busy Coeur d’Alene road will be transformed over the next 18 months into a world-class community center – the first of its kind in the region and one of a number of major public projects civic leaders say bring unprecedented opportunities to the area.

City officials gathered with other supporters of The Salvation Army Kroc Community Center on Wednesday for a groundbreaking ceremony at the site near the corner of Ramsey and Golf Course roads. The ceremony culminated more than a year of fundraising that brought in $6.5 million.

Coupled with a $64 million endowment, the money will build an 116,000-square-foot community center, complete with swimming pools, a gymnasium, indoor track, meeting and event space, a rock-climbing pinnacle, an outdoor amphitheater, an indoor playground, and 400-seat chapel and performing arts center. Half of the endowment goes to keeping the center open after it’s built. Construction is expected to begin within a week.

The community center comes at a time of rapid growth in the county that includes major projects like the new downtown library, a new Coeur d’Alene Chamber of Commerce building and the fundraising efforts to bring a Boys & Girls Club to Post Falls.

“Some of these projects are real icons,” said Coeur d’Alene Mayor Sandi Bloem. “Icons for building our sense of place, for creating a better future for our children and our children’s children, and beyond.”

Downtown, a multimillion-dollar library building nears completion, and a new Chamber of Commerce building sits midway through construction. Expected to open in September, the library, like the Kroc Center, is the kind of project that can transform a community, said Harry Amend, superintendent of the Coeur d’Alene School District.

“It’s going to change how the community views itself,” said Amend, who serves on the Kroc Center advisory board. “It’s a quality of life deal that people can be proud of.”

Library Director Bette Ammon said she’s heard of families choosing to move to Coeur d’Alene after learning of the new library.

“That was an indicator of how the community regarded itself. I think that’s a fact for the Kroc Center, too,” she said. “That’s huge.”

The 250 people who attended Wednesday’s groundbreaking were an example of how many people the center will benefit.

Tim Nelson and his four sons joined teammates from the youth Coeur d’Alene Area Swim Team at the ceremony to celebrate what will be the city’s first public swimming pool. The team currently practices across the state line in the Liberty Lake Athletic Club. It adopted the nickname “the Crocs” after Coeur d’Alene was awarded the center, Nelson said.

“They’re more than grateful for having this being built, that’s for sure,” Nelson said.

Bloem called the Kroc Center “probably beyond what most of us can dream about.”

“It accommodates literally from cradle to grave,” she said. “It’s hard to believe it’s going to be in our community.”

More opportunities for children in the area could be created if supporters of a Boys & Girls Club in Post Falls succeed in their fundraising efforts. The group has about $1 million in the coffers toward its $2.9 million goal and is hoping to gain momentum now that the Kroc Center fundraising is complete.

Bloem said she’s confident the community can support multiple fundraising projects.

“I really believe that you build a culture of giving,” she said. “I think if we don’t believe in the scarcity rule and we engage everyone in our community to get involved, there is more than enough to support our nonprofits.

“You build that culture; it doesn’t just happen,” she said.

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