Goshen News, Goshen, IN

September 28, 2012

Community center concept is worth a look


THE GOSHEN NEWS

The prospect of building a community center in Goshen that would include aquatics and fitness facilities has been a simmering conversation for several years. Now that prospect seems to have finally been pushed onto the community’s front burner. It should reach full, rolling boil in the next seven months.

Goshen Community Schools and the city of Goshen have agreed to partner in the project that some predict would cost more than $20 million. Former schools superintendent Bruce Stahly, who retired just last June and is the executive director of the project, said the center could have as many as three pools, three gymnasiums, a walking track, a number of community rooms and fitness areas. "This is more than a building," Stahly told Goshen News reporter Amanda Gray earlier this month. "It is a community center."

We are very excited about this project’s potential and agree with Stahly’s assessment. Students, adults and seniors could all share in the building’s use. Swim meets would be held there. So would pick-up basketball games and physical fitness programs for the elderly. It indeed sounds exciting. Still, we are also concerned about the potential cost of such a project and know that there is a long way to go before this concept becomes reality. Essentially the city and the schools would team up to borrow the money for the center through a bond issue that is paid back over time.

The need for aquatics facilities in Goshen has been well documented. On Aug. 31 Goshen College closed its pool on campus citing lack of student use, even though the pool received loyal use from the community, most notably Greencroft residents who used the pool for regular exercise. That sparked a flurry of letters to the editor, many of which denounced the college’s decision to close what had become a community resource operated by a private school.

As for our public schools, the pool at Goshen High School is more than 50 years old and the pool at Goshen Middle School is more than 20 years old. As part of the proposed community/wellness center, those pools would also be closed and those spaces repurposed for other needs in those schools.

September has indeed been a busy month for this issue. Earlier this month the Elkhart County Council approved putting the matter of public financing of the center to vote in a May 2013 special election. Anyone who lives within the city limits of Goshen or within the boundaries of Goshen Community Schools will be eligible to vote. On Tuesday schools Superintendent Diane Woodworth announced an architectural firm had been hired for a feasibility study. That study will cost $5,000.

We are eager to see the results of that study. On the surface this certainly seems like a great opportunity for this community, but we’re confident many taxpayers will need plenty more information before they’re ready to dive in.