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New community center in the works for Lowell

by Patrick Misner

contributing reporter

The last time a committee seriously considered building a community pool in Lowell was in the late 90s. A group has recently come together to discuss building the Lowell Area Community Center, which could include a pool among other facilities, for community-oriented events.
Construct Lowell Area Youth, CLAY for short, is leading this project and looking into various options for providing opportunities for Lowell youth and adults to come together for collaboration and fun. Their website states, "CLAY's mission is to provide and support enrichment programs to build and equip Lowell area youth, particularly those at-risk, with the tools necessary to succeed in life." They believe having an official community center would help achieve these goals more effectively.
Robert Rogers is a CLAY board member and was instrumental in starting the process to begin discussing options for a community center in Lowell.

"Construct Lowell Area Youth (CLAY) has several activities and programs in mind for our local youth, but we lack a facility to host them," Rogers explained. "CLAY talked about what facilities could we rent or purchase and then thought about some other needs within the community that could get satisfied in the same building. We talked about a community center and held a kick-off meeting with some key community members to drum up ideas. Since that meeting in September, the core group have met, outlined ideas, debated options, and as a group, we're determined to make this happen."

The group's first meeting to discuss the community center occurred in September of last year. A topic of discussion that has come up during the meetings is the difficulties associated with finding a location for the center. They would like to have one large location encompassing all of the community center's services, but they have also been considering the option of having smaller satellite sites. Some of the benefits of the latter option are that they would need smaller parcels of land, and it could possibly serve a greater area.
The group keeps the community up to date on the process and gets feedback on the project through a Facebook page. They posted pictures there in May of some of the board members visiting Spring Lake Fitness and Aquatic Center for ideas. They said the center in Spring Lake cost $17 million to build and $1 million annually to maintain. Another idea that has come up at nearly every meeting is the desire for a community pool. In a poll on the group's Facebook page in February, 158 out of 185 people voted for a pool, with a fitness center and splash pad near the top of the list as well.

The idea for a pool and community center is not new to Lowell. The group said that they were told this is the sixth time people have gotten together to turn this goal into a reality, and they hope they can learn from past experiences. They have also been able to look through a trove of documents from 1997-1999 when another group was seriously considering building a community pool in Lowell. 

"They had a great group of people working on that attempt, as well," Roberts commented. "They met frequently, talked about a lot of the same topics and had just about the same questions we have. It appears that the effort ended when they attempted to establish an authority with all three municipalities. They did get past the Needs Assessment and Feasibility Studies, which we're at right now in our process."

The needs assessment and the feasibility study Roberts alluded to would evaluate the community and board members' preferences in terms of the demographic and locational practicality of these options. Roberts said that the group cannot do much more planning until these are both completed. They are currently raising the $20,000 needed for these two separate analyses that each cost around $10,000.

They are looking for private and business donors for the studies, and donations for the project can be made to CLAY.

"Donations to Construct Lowell Area Youth with a specific note indicating that the funds are for the Community Center initiative would be most helpful, and donations are tax deductible," Roberts explained. "Donations can get mailed to PO BOX 65, Lowell, MI 49331. We're also looking to get as many letters of support from organizations and businesses within the community. Those letters could detail how a community center could benefit them specifically. If anyone has some particular skills and would like to volunteer to be part of our group, that would be helpful too! We're looking for someone to maintain a website, perhaps an architect and fundraising skills just to name a few."

More information can also be found on the group's Facebook page or website, constructlowell.org.

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