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Ely group brainstorms future rec. center

Committee explores $2 million project

ELY– A newly formed Ely committee doesn’t expect people to memorize the name behind the acronym. It just wants people to join in on the conversation.
The Community, Cultural, Recreational, Educational and Civic (CCREC) committee met for the first time in March 2015 and has toyed with the idea of a new community center since.
“We’re just a small group of folks brainstorming through the whole process,” said committee chair Bob Mreen. Community involvement at this point is low, he noted, but anyone is welcome to attend meetings. Six people currently make up the group.
City Administrator Aaron Anderson said the proposed center could encompass many things, hence the name, including recreation space and even a new library.
“With the growth of the community and success of the library, they’re very quickly running out of effective space,” Anderson said.
The library moved from the city administration building into its current location in 2002, when the fire station relocated to its new building on Main Street. City council member Kay Hale said people are coming from as far as Central City for Ely library programs.
“We are growing so much,” she said. “I think we need some recreation space for all of the kids coming into town, and the adults, too.”
Population growth was just one factor in the strategic planning decision to pursue the community center idea. Ely has grown consistently since 1992 with current population estimates at about 2,000, according to the State Data Center of Iowa.
“A lot of folks have expressed interest in having this kind of center in Ely,” said Mreen, something a communitywide survey conducted last summer confirmed. “We asked for input on what type of facility the community would like to have and we’ve been kind of using that as a benchmark as we go through the whole development process.”
The planning is in the very early stages with preliminary cost estimates at $2.2-2.8 million, said Anderson. “It’s exceptionally early,” he added. “It could be more, it could be less.”
The city is consulting with Martin Gardner Architecture in Marion on conceptual design options. Until a location is locked down, there won’t be much forward progress. Privately-owned farmland just north of Ely City Park is currently being considered. Its connection to the Hoover Trail and proximity to the park are ideal, but Anderson said there is a fallback if needed.
“I can’t imagine we would break ground, if everything just flew together, for a couple of years,” he added. Construction would likely be completed in phases with the recreation space and the library being the first priority.
The committee reached out to the City of Cedar Rapids and the City of North Liberty for ideas.
“As far as potential partners, we hope there’s a lot,” said Anderson. “We don’t have a well-defined list yet, but we’re hoping for a lot. Because the more partners we have, the more likely it is to happen.”
This could be the first major project for Ely since improvements at the city park in 2014. In 2007, the city tackled a $2.3 million wastewater treatment plant improvement project.
“It’s certainly more fun than a wastewater treatment plant,” said Anderson. “The end use is certainly more pleasant.”