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DLCCC, city discuss state of community center

Detroit Lakes Community and Cultural Center CEO Stu Omberg is quick to point out the positive impact the facility has had on Detroit Lakes. He's also willing to point out it still needs some help.

Members of the Detroit Lakes City Council and city staff and staff from the DLCCC gathered together Thursday for a special city council meeting in the DLCCC. The point of the meeting was to report the current state of DLCCC affairs.

For the DLCCC to run current programs, the center needs to generate over $300,000 in non-earned revenue. This comes in the form of season and show sponsorship for the theater, season ticket sales and other fund-raising events. The city has supported these efforts for the last several years by offering a matching grant of $55,000.

Omberg presented the city representatives with a PowerPoint of accomplishments.

There are 72 full and part-time employees, and 42,000 annual visitors to the facility. He noted other cities wouldn't mind a facility like the DLCCC.

"There were a few mayors (at the recent Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities meeting in Detroit Lakes) that would like to pick up this building and move it to their towns," he said.

Annually, there are 253,000 visits to the community center, 24,000 theater attendees, 139 events, 4,395 members and 22 percent market penetration.

"People would kill for that. The average is 8 percent," he said.

Not only are people from Detroit Lakes (62 percent) using the facility, but also 33 percent from the surrounding area, and 5 percent from more than 15 miles away.

"It's no secret, this place is in use," Brent Wolf said. Wolf is the DLCCC's health and fitness program director.

There are 800 children participating in programs, 500 adults in fitness classes, 650 kids in swimming lessons and 500 adults in swimming lessons.

"We have never turned down an individual," Omberg said of those that can't afford the community center. There are scholarships available to those in need.

There are 17,000 people attending main stage shows on the theater side of the building. Om-berg said Theater Executive Director Amy Stearns works to get a variety of acts into the theater, with 82 local performers, 65 national and 10 international.

With all those people buying tickets and memberships fees, there are costs as well.

Maintenance takes up $89,000 of the budget and $99,000 was spent on capital items last year. Omberg said that includes needs the public suggests like more lockers, cleaning equipment and aqua equipment.

Omberg admits though, there are still things staff needs to work on. Recent strategic planning identified five areas of focus. They include the board's role, civic district, value proposition, financial performance and teamwork.

He said the DLCCC board plans to work on its endowment fund and other fund-raising.

"We're not doing a very good job of that right now," he said, adding that he'd like to copy St. Mary's Regional Health Center's plan. "We haven't done very good in the past. We're going to do better."

Future projects for the DLCCC include a kids' gymnasium, and the group has entered into discussions with the Becker County Historical Society to house a new museum.

Despite all of the facility's success, DLCCC is facing significant expense to repair the swimming pool area. The total cost of the repairs could reach $500,000, with Phase 1 estimated at $250,000.

DLCCC board chair Dennis Winskowski said Friday it's unclear who is responsible for the cost of those repairs.

Holmes Center Inc. has an operating contract with the city, which owns the building. MMCDC was the developer of the building until withdrawing most of its interest last year, Winskowski explained.

"None of that changes the fact that the swimming pool needs to be repaired," he said.

Holmes Center Inc. plans to initiate the repairs in October and November -- the pool will be closed about three to four weeks -- and MMCDC has agreed to finance Phase 1 of the repairs.

Omberg pointed out that no one expects the city to pay for the pool repairs. MMCDC is researching ways to retire that debt.

Alderman Ron Zeman questioned the membership fees DLCCC is charging customers. Omberg said fees to the community center are reviewed and were recently increased.

Omberg pointed out that the fitness portion of the building is self-supporting, but the theater struggles, thus the need for non-earned revenue. Omberg said an immediate goal is to have ticket sales cover the costs of artist and marketing fees, but that goal hasn't been achieved yet.

That's just one of the reasons, he said, the DLCCC depends on the $55,000 from the city.

"I hope you look at this as an investment, not an expense," he told city staff.

"It'll be a wonderful day when we could always count on that ($55,000 from the city)," board member Cyndi Anderson said, stating it would always be needed to grow. "We view the city as a partner."