Volesky: Revive plan for joint rec center with Avera, DWUA Mitchell mayor candidate is trying to revive the idea of building a joint recreation and wellness center with Dakota Wesleyan University and Avera Queen of Peace Health Services.
By: Anna Jauhola, The Daily Republic
A Mitchell mayor candidate is trying to revive the idea of building a joint recreation and wellness center with Dakota Wesleyan University and Avera Queen of Peace Health Services.
Tara Volesky, one of six candidates for mayor in the June 5 election, said it only makes sense for the city to work with the two entities to provide a state-of-the-art facility for its residents.
Currently, city employees are considering an expansion of the existing Mitchell Recreation Center on North Main Street, which is connected to Gertie Belle Rogers Elementary School.
“I’m against the expansion,” Volesky said. “There’s not enough room and there’s no parking. It’s going to cost the taxpayers way too much money, and it’s already costing $130,000 a year to keep it running.”
Volesky is also against a proposed Corn Palace expansion and renovation, citing it as wasteful spending.
Volesky proposes the city sell the current Recreation Center to the Mitchell School District, which she said has expressed interest in it, and build a new center on the DWU campus. The idea for a joint project on DWU’s campus was pursued in recent years but never materialized.
Mitchell School District Superintendent Joe Graves said when the city was considering the idea several years ago, the district was interested in the city gifting the Recreation Center to the district. He said the district is still interested in receiving the building for free, but does not want to buy it. Graves said the building would be used for extra classroom and gym space.
Volesky said the city/DWU/Avera project would cost $20 million, $10 million of which could be funded by the city with bonds.
Volesky proposes the city use the money collected from selling the current Recreation Center and combine the city funds with DWU and Avera funds to create the center. She said DWU would provide the land.
Volesky said the new center could bring hundreds of people to town because it would provide more space for sports tournaments like basketball, volleyball and swimming, which would fill hotels and bring sales tax revenue to the city.
“The center won’t cost taxpayers any money, because membership will increase because of the pool,” Volesky said.
Part of the plan is to include an Olympicsized swimming pool, which would enable the Mitchell Aquatic Club to host swim meets. The club lost its practice facility several years ago when the Mitchell Middle School pool was demolished, and the club has since been practicing in an above-ground pool in a rented space on Main Street. The Recreation Center has a pool, but it is too small for lap-swim competitions.
Volesky added that by placing the new center on the DWU campus, the city would save money by not having to hire employees for groundskeeping, maintenance, refereeing, the front desk and more.
The college would pay for groundskeeping and maintenance, she said. Students could take work study positions to man the center and referee games.
“This would save the city literally thousands a year,” she said. “It’s a conservative decision and it only makes sense.”
The five other mayoral candidates agree something needs to be done to provide more indoor recreation for children and adults but don’t necessarily agree with building a new structure.
Ken Tracy, a city councilman, said a city recreation center “might work better” if it is solely owned by the city. But he admits there is “some merit to having one in conjunction with” Avera Queen of Peace and DWU. The question remains as to who would operate it, he said.
Jerry Toomey, a former councilman, said the subject of a new recreation center is not new and he will look into it should it prove a viable possibility.
John Claggett, a Davison County commissioner, said it all comes down to how much money the city and other entities would be able to invest in a new center.
“It’s not a question of if it will come, but when,” he said, referring to building a new center. “It’s a great idea and we need to have as many venues as possible.”
Roger Haley said everyone should cooperate in town to make Mitchell a better place.
But Haley has heard concerns from many people around town about a public building being located on a private college campus, he said.
Becky Haslam said a new recreation center on the DWU campus would be good for the college, but would possibly cause the city to lose revenue.
“A mayor should look at it from the standpoint of a city. The city would lose out on Dakota Wesleyan games,” she said. The university currently pays the city so its teams can play in the Corn Palace.
The five candidates other than Volesky said they don’t have specific plans for renovations, additions or new construction for a recreation center.
Tracy is in favor of making improvements to the current center but also wants to make sure there is enough money available to improve the Corn Palace.
Toomey supports expanded or new indoor recreation possibilities to keep youth busy. He would like to see high school students involved on a committee to give input about not only a recreation center, but also other concepts in the city.
Claggett said he wants to make sure a study is done and money is available before moving forward on a recreation center project.
The city has hired RDG Planning & Design, of Omaha, Neb., for $10,000 to create a conceptual drawing of a Recreation Center expansion. The drawing is expected to be shown to department staff soon.