Lindsay Community Center plans unveiled.
Facility would include area for events, gym, wellness center, stage. Read the article from Humphrey Democrat VOL. 135 NO. 42 – Wednesday, July 6, 2022.
Vows are exchanged, and the wedding party heads a few blocks to the reception hall.
Two teams are racing up and down the court with a trip to the state tournament on the line.
The clank of weights fills the air in a state-of-the art weightroom.
Students perfect their acting chops on stage.
Workers enhance their skills in training sessions.
This could be Lindsay’s future if a proposed Lindsay Area Event & Wellness Center is built.
A subcommittee of Lindsay Area Development (LAD), and the Event & Wellness Center project team, have worked since Jan. 16 on the project, and presented plans for the center June 29 during a public meeting in the Lindsay Holy Family gym.
More than 100 people listened attentively to the plans, cost and location and then had the opportunity to ask questions, view plans and tour the current antiquated school weightroom and locker room.
The center is estimated to cost $12.9 million, but the fundraising goal is $16 million to cover operating expenses and any unforeseen construction costs.
A subcommittee of LAD looked at several locations, and decided that the east half of the land near the practice football field is the best location. The Corps of Engineers has surveyed it and determined it is not in the 100-year flood plain, but engineered fill dirt will be brought in to elevate it and appropriate drainage system to divert water away from the houses on Front street and the center.
The project is well on its way to becoming a reality.
The goal is to have the community fundraising and pledges/donations completed by November so the final grant applications can be submitted and final funding dollars received by March 2023. Project planning and engineering would start immediately, and the goal is to have shovels in dirt by fall 2023 with the facility opening by the 2024 fall sports season.
Micaela Wegener, president of LAD, said this genesis of the project was a community attitude survey conducted in 2017 in which respondents prioritized five areas of improvement — housing, retaining and attracting new business, public infrastructure, park improvement/walking trail and a community center/fitness center/gym.
The top four have all been or are being addressed leaving only the community center on the to-do list.
“As the needs become more and more evident in the community, this is one of those priorities that I think now is the time we are willing to take on and tackle it,” she said.
Wegener said the attitude survey indicated people wanted a gym with a regulation size court, more seating capacity and better locker rooms, but also a wellness facility that was open to the public.
“What we found is that even though we all feel we need a gym, but what we found is people wanted something a lot bigger,” she said.
Wegener said there are weddings conducted in the Holy Family Church, but no place to hold the reception in town, forcing people to travel to Albion or Humphrey.
Wegener said there is an economic advantage to communities that bring visitors in, and the event center could do that for Lindsay.
“We just got done with a very successful sports and fine arts year. Both boys and girls basketball state championships, one act state champions, additional awards and hardware for bowling, speech and many other events. We ask you to think about when you attended that ball game, or other event, what type of dollars did you spend in that community? For example, did you buy a tank of gas, did you stop at the convenience store, did you go to the concessions stand? Think about it in terms of dollars. When we talk about this being more than a gym, and when you start thinking about it in terms of dollars, if we were to attract 100 non-Lindsay people into our community, what might that look like?
She said for every 100 people brought to town, and they spent $75 once a week, it would generate $7,500 spent in Lindsay businesses, which is $390,000 a year.
An events center would attract weekly basketball and volleyball leagues, which are now held in other towns.
That could mean as many as 36 teams and 288 players. If you assume two fans per player, 576 people would come to Lindsay a week.
While the events center is much more than a gym, the current gym is not up to standards, and costs Lindsay economically as well as in reputation.
Shelly Reichmuth, member of the LHF school board, talked about how the gym is used.
“I think you’d all agree our current co-op with Humphrey public is extremely successful, however we are not holding up our end of the deal,” she said. “Our facility does not meet many needs that are considered minimum requirements to host many sporting events. The gym does not meet NSAA regulations in terms of size, the court is currently too small for basketball, so visiting teams can choose not to play in this gym, that’s part of the co-op agreement.”
She said the locker rooms are not adequate (minimum expectations are a 4 locker room system), there is not space to run two volleyball courts to adequately provide practice space for 32+ volleyball players, and the stage is too small. All these force some activities and practices to be held in Humphrey.
In 2016, HPS and Holy Family each hosted three home varsity volleyball games; in 2018, five were at HPS and one at LHF; in 2021, three were at HPS and one at LHF; and in the upcoming season there are no home games scheduled to be played at Holy Family.
In the 2016-17 basketball season, HPS hosted five games and LHF four; in 2020-21, nine games were played at HPS and one at LHF.
LHF and St. Francis co-op one-act plays, and a majority of practices are at HSF because of its larger stage and gym.
Shelly Reichmuth said there are numerous weddings in Lindsay every year, but no place for the reception, so couples leave town, along with them all the revenue an event center would have brought to town.
“This is about more than having a gym, this is about bringing people into our community,” she said.
Lindsay has been adding to what it can offer residents and future residents. Aaron Reichmuth said they have made strides, but also have had some misses.
“As some of you know, and some are part of, there’s an investment club in town called Lindsay Area Investment Club (LAIC). There are 35 members contribute $1,200 annually to invest in projects in the community.
“One of our first goals was to bring a convenience store to town. We now realize the difficulty in finding someone to occupy that space and open a business. I’ve had more people than I can count that have inquired about it. Six of them have been very serious about it, five of them we got to the point of basically signing the contract, one even went as far as making a down payment, but when it came down to the very end, they backed out mainly because of what they see on main street,” he said.
There is not enough traffic of visitors coming into Lindsay and other businesses on main street, they said, to make them think a business would be profitable.
However, LAD has made strides.
The front half of the 5Fer’s building, which was bought by LAD, is still available on main street. The back half has been leased to Columbus Community Hospital, which is opening a medical clinic in Lindsay this summer.
Tavern 1888 opened, the Zimmer building has been sold and is being renovated, there is a new housing subdivision being built, and Reichmuth said, the grocery store, Lindsay Cooperative Market, which held a community meeting about its future in Lindsay, is doing better.
“This has all happened in the last 12 months, so the trajectory that was going downward, is now going upward,” he said. “I feel this is one thing the event center could do — is support the businesses we have and bring new businesses to town. Perception is critical. If your community is perceived as being a progressive community, things snowball, people want to build their house in town, people want to move to Lindsay. If we are able to make this happen that will send a very loud message that Lindsay is progressive, not regressive,” he said.
LAD worked with Lindsay Corporation to conduct a survey with its employees, and of the 400 employees, only five reside in the Lindsay area.
However, of the employees who completed the survey, 66 indicated they would be interested in relocating.
The reasons for not moving to the Lindsay area are a lack of housing and amenities.
Wegener said one of the reasons LAD worked with Columbus Community Hospital to open a clinic in Lindsay was a way to bring people to town.
“We’re looking at ways to bring people to town, otherwise it’s just as convenient to run to Columbus or one of the nearby communities,” she said.
She said there is a push for people to return to rural America, and told the story that a Google search from a California couple on the safest place to live in the United States, led them to Newman Grove.
“We see the shift back to rural America, and we really want to capture that,” she said. “So if we were to grow the amenities, the businesses, the housing, the school, education opportunities, we want to be able to capture the movement back here, and that will keep our community thriving.”
The event center is an independent project, and will be financed through grants, corporate partnerships, tax incentive programs and other services through the state.
“The business plan to support it will come from gym memberships that can be sold to the community. We know that companies that are trying to attract employees a standard perk that companies offer is a reimbursement for gym membership,” Korth said.
She said there are advertising opportunities inside and outside the building, including graphic scoreboards, ads during live-streaming events and hosting events that will also bring in revenue.
“The operating plan is to break-even because we want this to be self-sustaining, but the purpose is more than making money, it’s to bring business to the community and people to the community to support those businesses,” Korth said.
To get funding started, the committee is working with two grants writers who are optimistic the events center will be eligible for grant funding.
“There’s a pre-approval process, and we’ve actively been working on that, and have received some of those initial pre-approvals that invite us to apply for grants. Today, with the potential partnerships and those grants, we’re sitting at just under $7 million of potential funding that we have been told we have a very high likelihood of getting,” Korth said.
They are applying for approximately $25 million in funding, and have been told they have a good chance of receiving half of that, which will pay for the capital funding of the project.
Another portion of the grants is showing community support, so fundraising will be conducted. The goal is $3 million.
It’s important to use that any investment made by a business or individual donor brings something back. There are tax incentive programs that would enable those who give to receive a tax break. An example of how this works is “Basically, if you were to donate $1,000, you would get a percentage of that back in a tax refund, so it would either reduce your tax liability or it would increase your refund,” Korth said. “As far as the amount of money that we have been pre-approved to give back to the community, whether it’s businesses donations or individuals, is about $280,000.” In order to submit the final applications for these programs requires demonstration of community support in the way of pledges for contribution.
Where to put an events center that measures more than 39,000 square feet and space for parking, took a lot of time with many sites considered.
Aaron Reichmuth said a group of three members drove the Lindsay area, checking out property that was either privately owned, owned by the Village of Lindsay, Lindsay Corporation or Holy Family School.
He said they considered if the land could be obtained, it’s visibility, whether it was in town, close to the school and had room for future expansion.
“After considering all these things the site we picked was village-owned property by the park, where the practice football and softball fields are, on the northeast half of the park area,” he said.
Reichmuth said they are well aware that area has flooded in the past, so had ICON Architects research it.
“When we brought this idea to Matti, he (researched) that particular sight (with) the Corps of Engineers, and there is a section of land there big enough for our plans that is not in the 100-year flood plain,” he said. “Working with the engineer, they recognize they’ll need to bring in enough fill dirt to elevate it. This is included in project costs along with improved drainage needed to route the water away from the houses on the north side of Front street.”
They then sought and received permission from the Village of Lindsay Board of Trustees to have the land surveyed at LAD’s expense to determine its feasibility. “We wanted to wait for any formal requests to the town board regarding purchase or leasing until after we know what the sentiment is from the community and if they are in support of this project,” he said.
This location does not interfere with the walking trail that will be built next year and all requirements defined by the NE Game and Parks for the walking trail can be factored into this project to ensure no negative impact to that project.
There are four additional public meetings planned at the Lindsay Project Center meeting rooms to discuss funding options, programs and answer questions.
- 7 p.m. Monday, July 11.
- 7 p.m. Wednesday, July 13
- 7 p.m. Tuesday, July 19
- 7 p.m. Thursday, July 21