At Shakopee’s glitzy new community center, amenities are packed into every corner.
Children shriek with glee at the city’s first indoor splash pad and pool as parents keep watch from the expanded fitness center upstairs. Teens attempt kick flips on the revamped skate park outside or battle on XBOX consoles in the game room. And in the senior lounge, older residents gather for morning coffee in cozy armchairs and play shuffleboard.
Next door, a two-sheet ice arena welcomes amateur hockey players and free skaters.
“There’s something for everyone,” City Administrator Bill Reynolds said of the $30.4 million project. “This is one of the better facilities in the state, hands down.”
The community center, which stirred controversy after its approval under previous Mayor Brad Tabke, slowly opened to the public piece by piece during 15 months of construction. Workers made final touches to the building and exterior landscaping ahead of its scheduled reopening ceremony Sunday from 1-3 p.m. Community members are invited to try out the facility at 1255 Fuller Street. Admission is free, and prizes will be awarded, including ice time and a birthday bash inside one of several rentable party rooms.
The luxury face-lift more than doubled the size of the community center, adding resources like an indoor playground with a mini climbing wall, drop-in child care for parents and a large community room for parties or wedding receptions. Designated teen space touts four flat screen TVs with video game systems, air hockey and beanbag chairs. A skate shop even sells replacement boards and wheels to keep kids rolling after they take a hit on the concrete ramps.
An adjacent building houses the spacious hockey arena — Shakopee High School’s new home ice.
“It blew me out of the water the first time I saw it,” Reynolds said on a recent tour of community center, which he hopes will become a destination for young families.
At least 10 part-time jobs are now posted for the facility, and it’s looking to hire two full-time lifeguards.
In 2015, the City Council opted to finance the project through a 20-year tax abatement bond, a type of funding that does not require voter approval. Earlier plans for a community center rehab came and went since 1999, as three referendums on the topic failed.
Fearing residential “sticker shock,” Council Member Matt Lehman voted against the redevelopment. It passed on a 3-2 vote. Lehman likes some of the service offerings, but he still laments the process, arguing that it should have been put to the voters in another referendum.
“You’re paying for it even if you don’t use it,” Lehman said, adding that his two young grandchildren will also foot the bill one day.
He now fears that operational costs will run much higher than anticipated. “It’s there, so we gotta make the best of it,” Lehman added.
Initial concerns that the project would be an overwhelming burden for the taxpayer were overblown, Reynolds said. Property taxes are affected by valuation changes driven by market forces, the size of the tax base and outstanding debt service for a variety of projects, some of which was retired, he said.
Tabke, who had shepherded the plans at the end of his term, declared the endeavor a success. He’s especially proud of the senior lounge, which regularly attracts older, active adults to a meeting space with a full kitchen and bookshelf crammed with Danielle Steele romance novels and Agatha Christy murder mysteries.
“It was a huge undertaking,” Tabke said of the project. “It looks good and people will feel good using it.”
Liz Sawyer • 612-673-4648