Though the process of raising funds and constructing a new, $6.5 million, 30,000-square-foot building for the Boys & Girls Club of Detroit Lakes began about 3.5 years ago, plans for the new facility were actually discussed much longer ago than that.
"We first started talking about this in 2008 — and now, 11 years later, here we are," Boys & Girls Club Executive Director Pat Petermann said Thursday.
The Boys & Girls Club staff opened the doors of the new facility, at 150 Richwood Road, to the public for the first time last week, with a donor appreciation celebration on Wednesday night, and a public ribbon-cutting and open house Thursday afternoon.
Kids and adults alike appeared almost giddy as they tried out features like the new air hockey table in the games room, or the toy trucks in the younger kids' programming area.
Though the finishing coat on the new gymnasium floor had not yet been completed, keeping the kids from running around and trying out the basketball hoops on the regulation-size court, their awestruck expressions as they looked into the cavernous space, complete with working scoreboards, spoke volumes. A few other rooms, such as the kitchen, also aren't ready to be used yet.
The Lyle Crovisier Memorial Park monument was also re-dedicated Thursday. Members of the Lake Region Color Guard stood at attention as the Stars and Stripes were raised over the new memorial site for the first time.
Crovisier was a Detroit Lakes resident killed in battle in the South Pacific during World War II; when he was declared missing in action on May 24, 1943, he was just 24 years old. His mother, Berniece, donated the 10-acre span of land then known as Indian Hill to the City of Detroit Lakes on Dec. 5, 1955, with the stipulation that it be named in memory of her son, and that it be used specifically for a children's park.
Two years later, the Detroit Lakes Boys & Girls Club was first established on the site, in an old schoolhouse that had been moved there. Though the facility was expanded a few times over the years, it remained largely intact until being demolished last summer to make way for the new building.
At Thursday's ceremony, Petermann talked at length about the generosity of all of the businesses, organizations and individuals that donated their resources to make the new facility a reality, as well as the partnerships that made it possible.
"Our partnerships are very important to us," Petermann said, adding that the club's ongoing partnership with the City of Detroit Lakes has been "a blessing."
Detroit Lakes Mayor Matt Brenk spoke about the "great arrangement" the city has had with the club for the past 63 years, enabling it to operate on what is, in fact, a city-owned park.
Brenk said that the success of the projectis a reflection of Detroit Lakes' "community spirit, stewardship and can-do attitude."
James Vogt, one of the board members who was instrumental in getting the project off the ground, also spoke on Thursday about how raising money for a new facility like this was one of the most "humbling, harrowing, yet rewarding" experiences of his life.
When it came to responding to their requests for funding, Vogt added, "everybody showed up."
Boys & Girls Club board President Ron Mueller said that when he first showed the new building to his wife, she commented on how "modest" she thought it was.
"I told her 'thank you,'" he said. "Our plan was never to build a showplace, but rather, a nice, functioning facility that would serve our purpose, and our mission ...".
That mission, as outlined by Petermann during the celebration, is "to enable all young people, especially those who need us most, to reach their full potential as productive, caring, responsible citizens."