Group hopes rec center catches SPARC

SPARC planning associate Doug Faude tests out a golf simulator, one of the many attractions group members hope to implement at a future community center. (Photo by CAMERON RASMUSSON)

SANDPOINT — Local community activists see a world of possibilities ahead for the construction of a new recreation center.

At a meeting held at the bowling alley Wednesday night, members of SPARC, advocates for a local community center found extensive community support for the endeavor. Out of 1,200 respondents to the survey, 95 percent felt a community center would be a benefit to the region. The next step for SPARC is to identify potential partners, financing options and business plans to ensure the center can keep its own doors open once it’s constructed.

“If and when this comes to fruition, it’s going to be something that’s self-sustaining,” group president Kendon Perry said. “I certainly don’t want to do a fundraiser every year because we’re short on the heating bill.”

There are several possibilities for the future. One is a partnership with the University of Idaho, which could provide the use of its property on North Boyer Avenue, an area with several dozen acres, as one possible construction site, Perry said. In October, several University of Idaho architecture seniors produced designs for the property that included an extension campus, housing units, multi-use pathways and a prominently-featured community center.

Another possibility is a partnership with the YMCA of Spokane. This cooperation might not yield the means to construct a facility, but it could provide SPARC with the name-recognition and its robust set of ready-to-go programs.

When it came to identifying partners for the project, group members agreed it was best to go wherever the money led them.

“Wherever the money crops up to make this happen, we’ll be there,” Perry said. “This is a very fluid dream we’ve got.

The possible features of the community center are also still under discussion. An ice rink ranked high on the list according to the survey results, as did indoor aquatic facilities and a cooking program. Other possibilities include hot tubs, basketball courts, indoor soccer fields, a fitness center and other athletic accommodations. Meeting attendees theorized that many of these facilities could be planned into a single area of the building by using convertible designs.

“If we start planning this so different features overlap, it starts making a lot more sense,” group member John Nishimoto said.

A golf simulator is one potential attraction that received a demonstration at the meeting itself. The set up worked by hitting a golf ball into a screen attached to a computer. Meanwhile, a projector casts an image of a golf course on the screen. The computer is able to simulate how far the drive travels and where the ball lands, giving golfers a chance to hone their skills during the winter.  

Although the facility is still in the infancy of planning stages, group members are excited for the future and eager to see what possibilities await the project, they said.

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