Jeff Hunt – The Hawk Eye, Burlington, Iowa –
FORT MADISON – When Matt Morris, president of the Fort Madison Bank and Trust Co., told the Lee County Board of Supervisors Dec. 6 he was trying to raise $3.4 million for a recreational complex in Fort Madison, the reception was less than warm.
The lack of enthusiasm didn’t stop Morris and the Rec Plex Committee. By the end of last week the group had 65 percent of the money needed to apply for a $900,000 Vision Iowa Community and Tourism grant.
Jim Platt, Fort Madison Community Hospital CEO and Fort Madison Southeast Iowa Regional Riverboat Commission president, said the commission supported the project from its conception.
“We believe it will be a great addition to the community and will complement the RecPlex in Burlington,” Platt said. “We feel strongly it’s what Fort Madison needs.”
Platt said the organization has pledged to contribute $1.25 million, once the group raises the rest of the $3.4 million.
About $1.35 million is still needed to fund the project.
Morris said even though the project is about two-thirds funded, county support will make a difference in fundraising. The Rec Plex Committee must show it has support from area governments in its application for a Vision Iowa grant.
“We need to get the city, the county and local support involved so we can apply for the Community Attraction and Tourism grant,” he said.
The Vision Iowa Board grant is provided by the Iowa Economic Development Authority to support projects promoting public recreational, cultural, educational or entertainment attractions.
“In order to apply for the CAT grant we need to be at 50 percent of the total construction cost,” Morris said. “If we hit 70 percent it is viewed more favorably.”
The final day to apply for a CAT grant this quarter is Jan. 16.
Morris said the city pledged $500,000 to the project earlier this month, making a return to the county board the next step.
The Rec Plex Committee is slated to address Lee County supervisors Tuesday. Morris said he hopes the board will pledge its financial support.
“We don’t have a dollar figure in mind,” Morris said.
He said the committee understands governments must watch their budgets but added the recreational complex will draw people to Lee County.
Platt said he expects the complex will attract industry and provide entertainment for children.
Morris said all of the grants the committee has sought will have to be awarded between April and June, which is when the group wants to start moving dirt.
“In order to do that we have to hit our goal, so we’re looking at a five-month campaign,” Morris said of plans for community fundraising, which is set to start this week.
Morris said once the planned recreational complex is constructed, additional portions of the facility will be considered.
“It’s going to depend on the fundraising,” Morris said. “It seems like once a project gets done people will start to donate to do the additional work.”
Three softball fields and three soccer fields are planned in the first phase to attract tournaments.
“We knew we needed this many fields to make it feasible to make sure we had enough fields to accommodate the teams,” Morris said.
Alternate phases could include a walking trail around the facility and another softball diamond. A fourth soccer field and volleyball courts also are possible.
Platt said he has heard positive feedback about the proposed complex.
“We seem to have so much momentum right now,” Morris said. “With the city getting behind us and then the monumental donation from Fort Madison SEIRRC, I think that shows the community is behind the project.”
The key donations at this point are $1.25 million from Fort Madison SEIRRC, $500,000 from the city of Fort Madison and $175,000 from Pinnacle Foods.
Baxter Construction is contributing $120,000 in property, and the hospital is offering a long-term lease at $1 a year on the remain land to be used.
About $1.35 million still needed to fund the project. The committee hopes $900,000 of that will come from a CAT grant it is seeking.
While the recreational complex is a $3.4 million project, Morris said $300,000 is considered working capital. So for the grant application, the committee has 65 percent of what it needs.
“There are a lot of hurdles we will have to clear,” Morris said. “But we’ve have some good comments from industries so I’m feeling very confident we will reach the goal.”