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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Community center opportunity: It’s time

The Spokesman-Review

Twice, in the last 20 years, Coeur d’Alene activists have pushed to win support for a community center – only to lose at the ballot box.

In 1985, property tax rebels helped torpedo a $3.2 million bond to convert the town’s old high school into a combination community center, senior center and library. In 1999, local health clubs and business allies fanned antipathy for a $6.3 million community center proposal that garnered only 39 percent of an advisory vote.

Now, Coeur d’Alene has a chance of a lifetime to win a $25 million grant from the Salvation Army to build a community center.

The catch? Coeur d’Alene leaders, led by Mayor Sandi Bloem and former state lieutenant governor Jack Riggs, need to raise $1 million in pledges by Valentine’s Day to prove to the Salvation Army their town can sustain a community center. Despite differences of opinion in the past about the best way to finance construction and operation, few question the need for a center to serve the community’s young families and underprivileged, among others. Coeur d’Alene has pulled together to launch Jobs Plus and help build the cancer center. The Lake City needs to do so again to finally address one of its great remaining needs.

Coeur d’Alene has survived competition with other cities to emerge as the one Idaho finalist for a Salvation Army grant, funded by a $1.5 billion gift from the late Joan B. Kroc’s estate. If successful in competition with a dozen or so other Western cities for a handful of grants, including Tacoma, Seattle and Phoenix, Coeur d’Alene will receive $25 million to build the Kroc Center on the edge of the Ramsey Park softball complex and another $25 million for an endowment to fund about 30 percent of the annual operation and maintenance costs.

The facility would address so many of Coeur d’Alene’s indoor recreation needs, including centers for aquatics, teens and performing arts. With the grant, Coeur d’Alene, the City on the Lake, would have its first public swimming pools in years to provide youngsters with lessons in preparation for the more challenging lakes and rivers outdoors.

The opportunity is there. The need is there. All that’s left to be done by the greater Coeur d’Alene area is to prove it’s a willing applicant by raising the seed money to increase chances of landing the grant.