Panel recommends Ellis for rec center

Some residents hoped the center would return to the Time Check Neighborhood

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CEDAR RAPIDS — A City Council committee on Monday said it doesn’t make sense to build a new recreation center in the same place as the flood-destroyed Time Check Recreation Center, despite appeals from west-side residents to build again in the 100-year flood plain.

Instead, the council’s Flood Recovery Committee, which is compromised of three west-side council members, referred the recreation center project to the full City Council, asking the council to consider three sites in or near Ellis Park for the new center.

Don Karr, the council committee chairman, along with Julie Sina, the city’s parks and recreation director, said the new recreation center is intended to be a recreation center for the city situated in northwest Cedar Rapids, rather than just a neighborhood recreation center used by others in the city.

Eighty percent of those who used the Time Check center before the 2008 flood came from neighborhoods other than the Time Check Neighborhood, Sina said.

Those living in a newer neighborhood near Ellis Park are among those who oppose using park land for the new facility, and Linda Seger, president of the Northwest Neighbors Neighborhood Association, told the council committee that her group wants the recreation center built on the former site, 1131 Fifth St. NW.

A City Hall-appointed site selection committee earlier this year picked an Ellis Park site next to the park’s existing tennis courts and basketball courts. However, Seger, a member of the selection committee, and residents near Ellis Park complained to the Flood Recovery Committee on Monday that the selection committee had too many city employees on it.

Karr said objectors will oppose any of the proposed sites for the new center.

Karr, however, seemed to suggest that the loudest objections would come if the new recreation center was built on the site of an existing softball diamond in Ellis Park or on a city-owned site at Eighth Street and Q Avenue NW next to the park that is home to a mature forest. Sina said the city might need to cut down 600 trees to make way for the recreation center on the Q Avenue NW site, which Karr said City Council member Tom Podzimek, for one, would never approve.

Joe O’Hern, the city’s flood recovery and reinvestment director, told the council committee that the city should have about $2.75 million to $2.8 million in federal disaster funds to put into the new recreation center. Sina said the projected cost of the facility is about $3.4 million. The City Council, she said, previously set aside some local funds for the project.

The new center will be about 14,000 to 15,000 square feet in size, or about the size of the flood-destroyed center. Sina said the center will need about one-and-a-half acres of the 240 acres that make up Ellis Park and adjacent golf course. The city is adding about 200 acres of park land with the flood-protection greenway proposed along the river, she added.

Karr emphasized the proposed recreation center was not the $80 million multigenerational community and recreation center that the City Council once talked about building in Ellis Park.

Council member Chuck Wieneke said he strongly opposed spending public dollars to rebuild anything in the 100-year flood plain and for that reason opposed rebuilding the recreation center where it had been in the Time Check Neighborhood.

O’Hern said the Federal Emergency Management Agency would require that the center be built four-and-half feet higher than it had been at the former site to get it one foot above the 100-year flood plain. But the building took on 12 feet of water in the 2008 flood, Wieneke noted.

O’Hern said a new building on the elevated site would require 60-foot-long-ramps to get the disabled inside, an arrangement that neighborhood leader Seger said didn’t lessen her belief that the center should be rebuilt where it had been.

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