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The new Kalona Community Center is spectacular. Residents got a first look at it on Saturday.
The 10,000-square-foot gym with its bright shiny floor. The cardio and weight rooms with the new equipment. The brilliant blue walking track overlooking the gym.
More than one person exclaimed, “Wow!” walking through the new facility during the open house Saturday.
The new center cost $5.4 million to build, the biggest chunk coming from Kalona taxpayers via a $3.9 million bond. Grants rounded out the funding -- $500,000 from the Washington County Riverboat Foundation, $500,000 from Enhance Iowa and $450,000 from private donations and the Riverboat Foundation municipal savings fund.
That is a lot of money, but the original plans had an even bigger price tag.
The City Council wisely cut some amenities to get the project into a budget the city could afford.
And the council hired the YMCA to run the center. That cuts down on the city payroll and puts management responsibilities with an organization that has the expertise to do so with its experience running community centers across the country.
Kalona residents will benefit with reduced fees for getting a Y membership. The end result – a healthier community.
The project was guided by City Administrator Ryan Schlabaugh and his staff. There were thousands of small decisions that needed to be made to keep the project on schedule and on budget. The end result was in a word, spectacular.
A special thanks goes to the Washington County Riverboat Foundation. While the foundation did not provide a majority of the funding, building the community center without its help would have been more difficult.
The foundation has pumped tens of millions of dollars into the regional economy. Just looking along the Highway 22 corridor, there are many examples of how the Riverside Casino and Golf Resort has benefited local communities through the foundation grants.
Kalona has its new community center. Wellman has the Parkside Community Center. Riverside has its City Hall and gleaming fire trucks in its station.
But the foundation supports many smaller grants and projects that enhance the community. In the last rounds of grants, the foundation provided money to Highland Elementary School for “a maker space” area to support student learning. Mid-Prairie Cub Scout Pack 234 received camping and hiking supplies. The Washington County Extension updated its barn quilts. The Riverside VFW got help replacing windows, doors and lighting. The Kalona Historical Society received a grant for its “Kalona Past, Prairie to Prosperity” project. A new agricultural education greenhouse is being built at Highland High School.
Thanks to the Riverboat Foundation. Thanks to the taxpayers of Kalona. Thanks to the city staff. Thanks to the many private donations that made this community center a reality.
Your contributions have made Kalona a better place to live.