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(SUN POST STAFF PHOTO BY KEVIN MILLER)

Reggie Edwards, Brooklyn Center city manager, speaks to a group of state legislators Sept. 21 about the Brooklyn Center Health, Culture and Recreation Center project. If funded, Brooklyn Center would tear down the existing community center and construct a new center with updated sports and swimming facilities.

With the Minnesota House Capital Investment Committee making its first bonding tour of 2021, officials from North Hennepin Community College, Brooklyn Park and Brooklyn Center made a case for funding the Center for Technology and the Arts project and Brooklyn Center’s Health, Culture and Recreation Center project Sept. 21.

Both projects would require substantial state bonding dollars to become a reality, and the committee holds the Legislature’s proverbial purse strings. Committee members spent the morning stopping at potential capital investment sites in the suburbs on their way to the northwestern part of the state.

After a visit to the Hennepin County Recycling Center and Transfer station in Brooklyn Park, legislators and other project partners toured the college before hearing presentations on the projects.

CITA

The Center for Innovation and the Arts project, a collaborative effort between North Hennepin Community College, Brooklyn Park, Hennepin County and Osseo Area Schools, would construct a flexible arts and technology facility at the northeast corner 85th Avenue and West Broadway, adjacent to the library.

“For over five years we’ve been working on this project and we know that partnership is key to long-term goals,” said Brooklyn Park Mayor Lisa Jacobson. “We know and you have seen some of the gaps here in this building. We also have gap by area, by region for projects of this sort. Facilities for performing arts in the northwest area region do not exist.”

The proposal is estimated to cost $85 million. The partners expect to request $7 million during the 2022 bonding cycle and $38 million in the 2024 bonding cycle. Brooklyn Park would contribute $8 million, while the remaining $32 million would come from fundraising and other partner commitments.

The arts facility would be located adjacent to a proposed Bottineau Blue Line light rail station.

“This will be a destination,” said Rolando García, president of North Hennepin Community College. “This will be a destination for education. It will be a destination for culture and the arts.”

Many area high schools have more updated arts and technology facilities than the college is able to offer, García said.

If the project receives funding, it could be constructed between 2023 and 2025.

Brooklyn Center Health, Culture and Recreation Center

Brooklyn Center’s proposal is a newer concept than the CITA project, with the city’s staff members bringing forward the idea this year.

Through the project, Brooklyn Center would tear down its existing community center at 6301 Shingle Creek Pkwy. and replace it with a new, larger facility.

Two concepts are being considered in early project planning: an approximately $62 million, 100,000-square- foot facility with indoor 50-meter and warm water swimming pools, as well as gym and sports spaces; and a $117 million, 275,000-square-foot facility with an added 400-meter indoor track and additional sports space in a field house format.

“Return on investment in this particular project is about hope, it’s about healing, and it’s about health,” said Reggie Edwards, city manager.

The city – which has a 15% poverty rate, among the worst in the metro, according to Edwards — needs financial assistance to move the project forward.

“We’re looking at average income at about $24,000, $6,000 less than all of the comparable cities, so it’s something that we do not have the capacity to do, but in the collective, we can,” Edwards said. “The result of the impact is something that is regionally wide, national-wide.”

The city is partnering with Great Wolf Swim Team, InnerCity Tennis, and Youth and Families Determined to Succeed on the project.

David Bentz, head coach of the Great Wolf Swim Team, said Brooklyn Center’s pool is not up to national standard for competition swimming.

The swim club has been using Brooklyn Center’s pool for practice during the COVID-19 pandemic, while the general public was not able to participate in open swim events, Bentz said.

There are only two other 50-meter indoor pools in the state, according to Bentz. One is located at the University of Minnesota, while another is in Rochester.

Great Wolf often travels to Rochester for events, Bentz said, and Brooklyn Center could similarly become a regional destination for swimming events.

“We see this as an event center,” he said.

The pool could also benefit the regional economy, as families generally spend a large amount of money when traveling for sports, Bentz said.

Brooklyn Center offers 10 major hotels within walking distance from the proposed community center, he said.

Mel Anderson, the founder of Youth and Families Determined to Succeed, a nonprofit that provides access to health, nutrition, fitness and wellness services, said the facility could help to expand access to fitness equipment in the region, reducing rates of obesity and other health issues.

“This facility would be one of three worldwide that has a 400-meter indoor track,” said Anderson, who is also a former Minnesota Gophers and Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver.

John Wheaton of InnerCity Tennis also spoke in favor of the project.

This story was updated Sept. 29 to correctly identify Lisa Jacobson as Mayor of Brooklyn Park in a photo cutline.

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