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THE DETROIT LAKES COMMUNITY & CULTURAL CENTER HAS ANNOUNCED PLANS for a two-story, $2.5 million expansion project known as The Backyard, which will include 6,000 square feet of space geared specifically for use by kids and families.

Community Center to grow

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Community Center to grow
Detroit Lakes Minnesota 511 Washington Avenue 56501

Spring is in the air. It's a time for growth and renewal -- and today, the Detroit Lakes Community & Cultural Center announced that it, too, is planning an expansion.


Since the DLCCC first opened its doors in December 2001, it has become one of the busiest facilities in town.

With an average of 630 check-ins per day at the Fitness & Aquatics Center; more than 22,000 people attending programs at the Historic Holmes Theatre during last season alone; and thousands participating annually in the DLCCC's swimming lessons, youth baseball, arts outreach projects and other programming, it is now the most visited public building in the city.

"The facility has been an incredible success --there were just a couple of areas that needed to be augmented," said Steve Daggett, one of the co-chairs for the first phase of the fund-raising project.

"We saw some areas that we were under-serving -- mainly toddlers and teens," said Stu Omberg, CEO of the DLCCC.

In addition, the membership base has grown so much that the free weight and cardio workout areas were being over-utilized.

"It's hard to get on some of our cardio equipment (during peak usage times) -- there's not enough equipment and a lot of people wanting to use it," Omberg added.

So last September, the DLCCC board began looking at an expansion project. Specifically, the expansion is intended to target youth programming and expanded cardio/free weight facilities.

"We did a lot of research on the features -- specifically, the Playland (i.e., kids' playground)," Omberg said. "We went down to the (Twin) Cities and looked at five different Playlands. What impressed us was the utilization (by the public) and that they're financially stable."

Plans were drawn up by architects from Baker Hogan Houx, of Perham, that would add 6,000 square feet of space for a youth court/multi-purpose gymnasium and Kids' Playland, plus an interactive fitness area for all ages (especially teens), an expanded KidZone and party room, restrooms and kitchenette.

A 1,050 square foot upper level was also included, to encompass the new free weight and cardio areas, as well as a specialty fitness studio.

The project was dubbed "The Backyard," because of its intended location to the west of the current fitness center, as well as its intended purpose.

"For so many months of the year, kids can't do all the activities they want to do outside," Omberg said. "We want to make this their year-round backyard."

The playground area, dubbed "Playland," would include a six-level tube slide, multi-level wave slides, a spider maze, suspension bridge, punch bag forest and toddler area, to name just a few of its many activities.

And to make it more attractive for parents to come with their kids, the area will have WiFi so they can bring their laptops to keep them occupied while the kids are playing (if they don't decide to play with them, that is).

To give the project a jump start, the board began its fund-raising through a "silent" campaign, quietly raising half of the estimated $2.5 million cost through private donations.

"Everyone we've talked to is bullish on this project," said Daggett. "They realize this is a project that is necessary -- it's something our community does need.

"it's a message to the kids --  we built this just for you," Daggett added. "They've got to feel pretty excited about that."

"With this project we will be taking the DLCCC a step further and making it truly a community center, where young kids have more things to do," said DLCCC board member Susan Busker, who is also one of the co-chairs of the public fund-raising campaign (along with board chair Larry Buboltz).

"We've had a very positive response already," she added. "People are very excited about it."

Buboltz said he was excited about the expansion's potential for increased family participation.

"Yes, more kids will come and learn and grow and participate... but more importantly, I think it's going to become a family thing," he said.

Parents can come and work out, and know their kids will have a place to go and be active.

"What we want to do is provide a space for kids to do what they do best -- which is play," said Omberg. "Without knowing it, they'll be exercising."

"I'm absolutely committed to the whole project," said Buboltz. "First and foremost, because it's important to our young people, but also because in reality, everybody who uses the place will be able to enjoy the improved facilities. It's a step upwards for the community center as a whole."

Not only that, Buboltz added, but the timing for the project is right, with lower construction costs (due to low demand on the market) and favorable financing opportunities, through matching dollars and federal financing.

Another particularly attractive aspect of the project, Omberg said, is that once completed, The Backyard is anticipated to bring in an estimated $60,000 in additional income per year (after expenses) from increased day pass, room rental, birthday party and membership income, based on the research of five other regional facilities.

"One of the big things for us is this addition will not only be self-sustaining, but it will contribute to the financial health of the entire community center," he added.

With the initial goal of raising $1.25 million now complete, the DLCCC board hopes to raise the remaining half of the funding through a public campaign, which began today with a formal press conference and open house for its members.

Tomorrow, the DLCCC will open its doors to the community for the entire day, offering free public use of its facilities from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. There will also be staff available to answer questions about the expansion project.

For more information about the DLCCC's various programs and facilities, call 218-844-4221 or visit

Vicki Gerdes

Staff writer at Detroit Lakes Newspapers for the past 15 years, currently editor of the entertainment and community pages as well as obituaries. Living in DL with my cat, Smokey.

(218) 844-1454