CUBA CITY—The “Pit,” or the Cuba City Gymnasium, has been described as an “eyesore” that “smells terrible,” leaving community members to find other options for their indoor recreation.
The proposed replacement of the aging facility would provide a recreational outlet for all ages in the Cuba City community. A fundraising campaign is underway to raise the $2.75-3 million needed for the new building, which would be located between the elementary and high schools on School Street.
The new facility, initially called the Cuba City Community Center, would replace the Pit, located on Jackson Street. The Pit was a Works Progress Administration project built in the 1930s. It currently has problems with mold.
In 2011, the city council voted to abandon the Pit if something happened that would result in a major expenditure, although the facility will remain open at its present operating costs until something major happens. There were several attempts made to investigate renovating the Pit, but experts determined it would not be in the city’s best interest.
In June 2011 a four-person committee consisting of Jim Bousley, Steve Misky, Jerry Petitgoue and Tim Hazen was established to investigate building a new family center. The committee investigated several different sites within the city, including one of the vacant buildings in the industrial park and the current location of the Pit, but none of them met the criteria needed for the new facility. Then the school offered the property between the elementary and high schools as an option that would benefit the students and staff as well as the community.
Hazen said the location was chosen for convenience for the schools, which use the Pit for athletic practices.
“[The school] kind of had a vested interest and felt that the land between the high school and grade school was available and that would be a good place to put it because then the kids wouldn’t have to travel if they were going to use it for their practices,” Hazen said. “It would really benefit them.”
The school board has taken steps toward deeding over the 1.42 acres needed for the building and parking lot, with an open meeting for community input to be scheduled in the near future.
“We recognize in a town like this that we need a partner,” Hazen said. “The school district has used the Pit and has provided some income through rental fees and things like that… We want to emphasize that this is a city building. The only aspect the school has been involved in is the land acquisition.”
Bousley said the committee’s goal is to finalize the plans this summer or fall, start the bid process in January 2014 and begin construction that summer.
“We have been raising funds, we have an architect that has a plan for us and cost estimates,” Bousley said. “We’re to the point where we’re on a pretty good schedule right now and feel like we can break ground next spring.”
Bousley said the fundraising committee will determine in July how the fundraising efforts are progressing and if additional methods, such as a referendum at the fall election, are necessary. Hazen said he hopes to raise all of the money through donations this summer.
Lynee Robson of the fundraising committee said through word of mouth, approximately $550,000 has been raised for the project. The fundraising committee has also sent out approximately 3,800 letters to local citizens and Cuba City High School alumni seeking donations.
“We have a plan, we have a cost estimate, we have a schedule and we’re hopeful that people are going to respond [to the mailings] and have some confidence that this is a valid project,” Bousley said. “We hope that the donors come forward.”
Hazen said the Cuba City High School athletic booster club was the first to make a significant donation, offering $100,000 toward the project. Glen and Esther Egan also made a significant donation for the new facility.
“It has been my community all of my life,” Glen Egan said. “Everything we did we depended on Cuba City for. It got to the point where they needed something to bring more people in to let them take part, and I think something like this would do a lot.”
Four generations of the Egan family have attended the Cuba City School District. Glen and Esther Egan were thoroughly involved in the area, serving 45 and 40 years, respectively, as 4-H leaders.
“I think the facility would be such an opportunity for the community,” Robson said. “Cuba City is an active community.”
Robson said there are many who walk throughout the city from April to October, but in October the weather keeps them indoors.
“With this facility, having an elevated walking track, all of those people will have a place to go to meet people and interact,” Robson said.
Cuba City resident Ruth Ann Summers said the small kitchen will be a welcome addition to the facility with so many purposes, from exercise to meeting to socializing.
“The community center will serve the needs of people of all ages, but from a personal standpoint, I’m interested in what it will offer senior citizens,” Summers said. “During inclement weather the elevated track will provide a safe place to walk. And it will be more convenient to have a small fitness center right here in Cuba City, as opposed to having to drive to a neighboring town to work out.”
The new facility will potentially have many uses, from a senior center to recreational facility to meeting area. Organizations could hold youth sporting tournaments and have large or small group meetings with the option of using a high-tech facility. Hazen said local colleges have shown an interest in using the facility for satellite learning opportunities.
“It’s going to be a concrete structure, the foundation of the community to draw people to our community, whether to visit and use the facility or to want to live here,” Bousley said. “I think it’s going to be a really good anchor and an attraction for people to come to Cuba City.”
Detailed renderings of the street view and floor plan of the proposed new facility can be seen at the Cuba City Community Center link on the city’s website, cubacity.org.
Bousley said the city council has approved the transfer of land from the school and the initial design and continues to move forward with the project. He said the city would hire a new employee to manage the facility once it opened.
The core committee has also been working to establish a fund to help with the operating costs the first few years. Those estimates are still being determined.