Kalona Community Center to open in August

By John Butters, The JOURNAL


KALONA ? Kalona?s new $5.3 million community center will open soon to the public, adding a multi-use facility to the growing community.

An open house is scheduled for Saturday, Aug. 25, from 1 to 4 p.m. A ribbon-cutting ceremony is planned for 1:30 p.m. and the facility will open to the public the following Monday.

The recreational facility, to be managed by the YMCA, includes a full gym with wooden flooring and two side courts. It features a 24/7 weight and exercise room with new equipment, a walking track, multi-purpose exercise rooms and a dance room. The new recreation center will also include a spin cycling room.

The city received a $150,000 grant for gym equipment from the Washington County Riverboat Foundation. In addition to the recreation center, refurbished city offices will contain more space for both the city council and city administrators.

After reviewing several construction sites for the center, city administrators chose to revitalize and add to the existing community center in downtown Kalona. City officials said the central location provides a hub for downtown activity and enhances the recent improvements to the downtown streetscape.

The central location also places the building within walking distance for many residents, which could reduce the need for parking spaces. The city did, however, purchase land across the street from the facility to add to existing parking space.

The community building has been repurposed several times and has a long history of renovations. The original part of the building was erected as the Kalona High School in 1936 under the Federal Emergency Administration of Public Works at a cost of $ 12,000.

The 1936 gymnasium was razed this past year to create space for the new recreation center. In 1986, Kalona rebuilt part of the existing structure and renovated the remaining portion at a cost of $525,000.

After the 1986 renovation, the City of Kalona brought on a full-time parks and recreation director to run all of the programs in the city. In 2004, the Kalona Public Library moved from the second floor to a new $1.6 million dollar facility across the street. The space was rented out to Kalona Youth Organization (Elements) to provide after-school and evening mentoring and programming for teens.

In 2009, the City of Kalona renovated all of the City Hall offices at a cost of $ 80,000 to provide a more open workspace, relocation of council chambers to the lower level and a server workroom.

Additional construction was completed in 2009 / 2010 on the Community Center as it received a face-lift that included the purchase of newer exercise and weight equipment, wall-mounted televisions in exercise rooms, new flooring, and all new paint.

The latest renovation brings an open concept to the interior. There will be televisions, a gaming area, a child watch area, vending machines and a small concessions area.

It will also include men?s and women?s locker rooms and an elevator. The entire facility will be Americans with Disabilities Act compliant.

The project had multiple funding sources from both inside and outside the community.

In addition to a voter-approved $3.9 general obligation million bond issue, Enhance Iowa, a tourism and community attraction grant program funded by the Iowa Economic Development Authority, awarded $500,000 to the Community Center project. The Washington County Riverboat foundation provided a $400,000 grant and Washington County committed $20,000 to the project.

The building continues to be an asset as it takes on new roles for the community.