Community center draws interest

Tuesday, April 10, 2007
Jamey Landry talks about the community centers she has visited in Owen and Clay counties, Fishers and other communities and the variety of amenities they offer.

A modest crowd of people gathered at the Putnam County Fairgrounds Monday evening to learn about and discuss plans for a first-of-its-kind community center in Putnam County.

Members of a committee looking at the project presented their findings to the group, which included pictures taken at seven different community centers located in towns and cities throughout central Indiana.

The sites that were visited by the group included Franklin, Fishers, Spencer, Brazil, Indianapolis and Plainfield.

Committee members began their research in the spring of 2006, according to Chairman Adam Cohen.

"I know this idea has been around for a long time, but I think now maybe the stars are aligned for us to be able to do it," Cohen told the crowd Monday night.

He said the committee recognized the fact that Greencastle doesn't have a lot of places for indoor activities right now and that a community center would fulfill that need.

Cohen, who works at DePauw University and spends a lot of his time at the Lilly athletic center, said there is a waiting list of approximately 100 people in the community hoping for memberships into that facility. He said the Lilly Center is simply not large enough to support the community at large and serve the students at the same time.

Some of the facilities visited by the group were operated under the umbrella of a YMCA while others were municipally run as community centers. Presumably the Greencastle Parks and Recreation Department would operate the community center if it were city-run.

All the facilities visited by the group offered similar features, including swimming pools, exercise rooms, indoor tracks, meeting and reception rooms and indoor basketball courts.

A few of the facilities offered child care centers, restaurants or snack bars, children's exercise equipment, game rooms and racket ball courts.

One of the members of the committee, Jamey Landry said she is most concerned that her children don't have a place to go for "healthy activities." She said she liked the idea of a family facility where she could go to exercise and her children would have something to do as well.

The Owen County YMCA, located in Spencer, has a room with exercise equipment specially designed for children to use.

Other facilities have rooms, designated for teens and youth, that house ping-pong tables and other games, while others have child care areas that allow parents to exercise while leaving their small children in the care of an adult.

Cohen told the crowd of several dozen people that the average price to construct a similar facility was between $3 million and $7 million, with an average annual operational cost of $700,000.

Cohen said after the meeting that he believes cost is the most important factor to consider in the planning and construction of a community center.

"I think the people really want it," Cohen said of the community center. "I think the question is always how to pay for it."

During the meeting, the audience members were split up into two smaller discussion groups where financing was one of the topics.

It was suggested that a community center could be built using either grant money, taxes, private donations or corporate sponsorships -- or a combination of several -- among other sources.

Audience members seemed the least willing to accept taxes as a means of paying for the new center, however, it was suggested that if residents countywide paid for the center, rather than just Greencastle residents, they would be more willing to accept it. Putnam County's population is about 35,000 residents, while Greencastle is around 10,000.

After the meeting, Cohen said he was pleased with the turnout and the response from those who attended.

"I thought the discussions were outstanding," Cohen said. "I think the people were really passionate."

Committee members said they will welcome new members and hope the community center will be truly a "community project."

They recently released a survey which they hope all residents will fill out and return. For more information, contact Cohen at 658-4119 or e-mail to

"We're not in this because we think we'll fail in the end," Cohen said.

The committee has scheduled another community meeting for May 21, after which time Cohen hopes the group will begin to formulate an actual timeline for moving ahead with the community center project.

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