Traverse City Record-Eagle

September 17, 2013

New recreation center for GT County?


---- — TRAVERSE CITY — Officials are considering a plan to replace the Grand Traverse County Civic Center with an ambitious, multi-million dollar recreation facility.

Grand Traverse County Parks and Recreation Director Jason Jones, Grand Traverse County Commission Chair Herb Lemcool and four other community members formed a group early this year to discuss construction of a new community center that would cater to all age groups — and all types of recreation enthusiasts.

Early cost estimates put the proposed project price tag at $16 million, but Jones said that's "very much a ball park figure."

"This is something we are in the very early stages of looking into," Jones said.

Where money for such a project would come from remains unknown.

Max Binkley, a member of the group working on the proposal, said every possible funding option is being considered.

"Probably a combination of grants and donations, plus maybe some millage that would be acceptable to taxpayers," Binkley said. "I don't know what that amount would be."

Possible amenities include an elevated indoor running track, multipurpose indoor sports fields, a swimming pool, a rock climbing wall and a skate park. Other components on the table are conference rooms, kitchens for catering and cooking classes, and large event spaces.

Jones said such a facility would give community members more opportunities to exercise and stay fit in the winter. It also would provide a space for residents from all generations to gather and recreate together.

Jones will report on the proposed project to the county Parks and Recreation Commission on Thursday during a 6 p.m. meeting. Binkley said group members want feedback from the parks board before they decide how to further develop their plans.

"I'm hoping there will be some understanding about what is trying to be accomplished," Binkley said. "I'm hoping there will be more people for it than against it."

Jones said he's approached Northwestern Michigan College officials about a community center project partnership, but he wants to hear from his board before he further pursues that idea.

Either way, any new community center is still several years down the line; the group's proposal includes a seven- to 10-year project timeline.

But it's never too early to start planning, Lemcool said.

"When you're doing things nowadays you have to be looking five to 10 years down the road," he said.