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Consider The Possibilities

By Staff | Feb 18, 2010

Consider the possibilities: A new, public facility for indoor and outdoor activities on the shores of Five Island Lake.

Feasibility Study

What does the community want? The facility should include multipurpose space for meetings, social events, seating for 300; a public restaurant for lakeside meals; teen center; watercraft rentals; youth day camps; lounge (serving alcohol); live concerts; convenience store accessible from the lake; senior activity center; children’s theatre or other family programs; bowling.

Would the community support such a new facility? Most residents said they would visit at least monthly. Food and beverages would increase frequency of use, as would indoor/outdoor recreation programs.

How would the new facility be funded? Half of the people surveyed would be willing to increase their property taxes for construction. On the other hand, a supermajority (two-thirds) would not be willing to fund operation of the facility with property taxes. Residents would be willing to pay fees to use the facility, especially per visit; and two-thirds would be okay with the city hiring private concessionaires to provide services at the new facility.

How would these community desires be met? To meet the wants of the community, a new facility would be constructed on the current site of the former Emmetsburg Country Club; the facility would be approximately 14,100 square feet, and would focus on the lake; dining facilities and activity areas would be open to elevated decks/terraces and pedestrian access to the shoreline of Five Island Lake.

What is the projected cost? Preliminary pre-design cost is projected at $4,120,290 for a “modest” facility or $5,157,500 for an “enhanced” facility. Projections include $200,000 to $250,000 for demolition/site work; $3,294,500 to $4,125,000 for new construction; and $768,900 to $1,032,500 for miscellaneous (tables, chairs, etc.).

Would operation of such a facility be financially viable? Amenities lend themselves to sustainable financial operations per site/facility components (14,100 GSF). Annual operating revenue is projected at $469,000. Annual operating expense is projected at $266,848. Net is projected at $202,152.

Management will be a key factor. Leadership and management decisions will be key in the success of operational finances.

There is the potential for significant regional economic and community development. Assets include keeping people in the region and attracting others.

How and when was the feasibility study conducted? Emmetsburg Community Feasibility Study was conducted by Hanser & Associates Public Relations from September through November, 2009.

Public Input (September through November, 2009) included: issues identification with leaders; quantitative input with citizen phone survey; qualitative analysis with focus group of leaders.

Design Feasibility (November 2009) included: preliminary design and cost.

Financial Feasibility (November through December, 2009) included: demonstrate financial viability of operations.

–Emmetsburg Clubhouse/Community Center Public Input and Feasibility Study is on the city’s website: www.emmetsburg.com

Public Opinion

Over 50 people attended a public meeting Thursday, Feb. 11, to discuss Emmetsburg’s new community center. Ron Hanser, president of Hanser & Associates, and architect Bill Dreyer, presented information from the study and answered questions.

“We are here to tell you what you (the community) said,” said Hanser. “There is really strong sentiment for indoor and outdoor amenities… The bottom line is how this facility relates to the lake.”

To accommodate the wishes of the community, a 14,100 square foot facility was proposed.

“We’re not telling you that you have to build 14,000 square feet. We’re telling you that the components add up to 14,000 square feet,” Bill Dreyer told the group. “As the project moves ahead, maybe it’s smaller, maybe it’s bigger. It depends on what the community wants.”

Dreyer added, “It’s really important you understand pre-design. We do not have a design for the site. This is part of the analysis we go through before we make a design. Is it feasible to build? Is it feasible to operate?”

Hanser told the group that half (51-percent) of the people surveyed would be willing to raise their property taxes for construction of the facility. “That’s a very strong number,” he said.

On the other hand, two-thirds of the people are not willing to bond for operation of the facility.

Dreyer stressed the connection of the facility to the water and connection to the community.

“This is a site that you just don’t find every day. It has to relate to the lake, to the community and to downtown,” he said. “There is so much potential for building out here.”

Projections of positive revenue were discussed. Mayor John Schad questioned whether the $200,000 annual net includes amortization of the original five million dollar cost of the building. When Hanser said that figure was operating only, Schad commented, “So somewhere, in addition to this, we’d have to figure out some way to amortize.” Hanser answered that the people surveyed would be willing to use property taxes to build the facility.

Al Schmitz asked about the possibility of remodeling the existing building and bringing it into compliance. The current, two story clubhouse building is not handicap accessible. Hanser and Dreyer estimated cost of installing an elevator would be $160,000. Restrooms would also need to be accessible, in addition to meeting new energy codes.

“You would end up with more for your money with a new facility,” said Cory Gramowski.

When talking about use of the facility, Amy Riske noted, “I know what people would pay (to use the facility). What are you thinking the revenue would be for weddings and receptions?”

Hanser said that the preliminary numbers are based on usage at similar facilities in similar size communities. He also noted that it would be two or three years before the facility reaches its stride. Hanser again pointed out that management is key.

When asked if the cost of the project was provided when people were surveyed, Hanser stated that they did not have a projected cost at that time.

What is the next step?

“If the city council decides they want to fund any portion of the project with property taxes, it would have to go before the voters,” said City Administrator John Bird. He noted that the city’s purpose is to preserve public access to Five Island Lake.

“We all know there is limited public access (to Five Island Lake),” said Bird. “I think that’s probably the only reason the city council stepped forward and bought this property. Public access is one of the most important elements. That’s my opinion.”

Conversations about the community’s wants and needs for a community center will continue.

Consider the possibilities…