Written by Brandi Clement
It’s been a long, ongoing process of developing and constructing a community center for Henderson. Executive Director of the Chamber of Commerce, Kelsey Bergen and City Clerk, Connie Brown have been fervently thinking and discussing plans for a local fitness and community gathering place for residents. In a recent interview at City Hall, Kelsey and Connie explained, “A community center has been talked about for a long time. Back in 1975, there were plans to place a community center in the Downtown Park.” The plans at that time had included a meeting room where Henderson residents could host parties and have a central location for important meetings. However, this was about the same time when Heartland Community Schools built their new theater and gymnasium. The idea for a community center then dropped for a short while as the new gymnasium and theater met the need for the community at the time.
In 2009, the Henderson Chamber of Commerce and Heartland Leadership Center met for strategic planning. It was then when the community center idea came to attention, again. Kelsey Bergen stated, “They ended up having meetings up until 2012 and put out surveys, both online and on paper, for community members asking what they would like to see included. Ideas that were brought up included a pool, fitness room, daycare, basketball court, reception area, and many others.” There were over 350 participants in the 2012 survey. Once the survey had completed and the results came to light, volunteers started drawing up some plans, some of which were pretty lofty. However, the problem with this was there was interest, but there was no organization or business to stand behind and maintain it. Ultimately, it came down to who would manage the community center and who would see it through to completion.
Many people kept it in the back of their mind though. According to Kelsey, “The City Council brought up the consideration of a community center again three years ago. A lot of community members would love for this to happen as it’s a definite need.” A group of interested individuals went on various tours of community centers in the area in 2018. “We toured Phillips, St. Paul, Doniphan-Trumbull, Shickley, Alda, and a few other small towns like ours who have successful community centers,” explained Kelsey and Connie.
Recently, the City Council has been working closely with Miller & Associates. They have applied and received the Civic and Community Center Financing Fund, which is a state fund with two phases. The City of Henderson is in Phase One of this grant, which entails a feasibility study. Ultimately, this study will show how feasible it would be to build a community center in Henderson. It would also include location options, cost, and funding. Phase Two, which the city can apply for in two years, would include some funding from the state for construction, what the city could take on financially, and making sure Henderson residents wouldn’t pay too much more in tax dollars.
Location has been another deciding factor as well. In 1975, there was talk about placing the new community center in the Downtown Park, as stated before. In 2012, there was talk about breaking ground by Heartland Community Schools. As of now, Miller & Associates has talked about three prominent locations to start construction. However, nothing has been finalized yet. Kelsey mentioned, “There are a lot of options, but it’s hard to know 20 years from now what will fit the community best as it grows and changes because we can’t see into the future.”
The Walkable Community Grant Process met in the Fall of 2018 discussing health in the community. It wasn’t the city’s intention to bring up a potential community center, but it ended up being one of the top three aspects that wanted to be added to Henderson as part of the process in addition to creating more hiking and walking paths and enhanced programs for health and wellness. They are strongly considering putting it to a vote of the people.
“If you get it established, it will stay established,” said Connie Brown. Down the road, as the development of a community center begins, the hope is that there will be a big gymnasium that would double as a reception hall, a fitness center, indoor walking track, and a room for senior citizens. Kelsey mentioned, “It would be neat to implement some youth programs in the facility, as well.” Connie then explained that, “This potential facility would bring in people from all over, like the ball fields. It brings in people who are spending money in town which could impact the town economy and Henderson residents in a good way.”
The Beckhard-Harris Change Model states, “You desire, times your vision, times your first step, has to be greater than your resistance.” The city has taken this model into their own hands. They have a desire to build a community center and a vision for what’s going to be included. There just needs to be some first steps taken. The next step for this to happen is to hold a community forum at some point with Miller & Associates, who would lead the talk about the interest in the near future. According to Kelsey and Connie, three plans have been drawn up for the building of a community center. “Realistically, we would like to see a Henderson Community Center ready to open its doors in five years,” said Connie and Kelsey. The center would be managed by the city. The Henderson Chamber of Commerce and Henderson Community Foundation would be involved too. There would ultimately need to be a substantially large donation and a few grants to make this possible as well.
A community center in Henderson would benefit all ages. It would provide a great place for businesses to host events and meetings, as well as provide a place for youth and family programs. This could also positively impact the economy and bring more business to town. It’s very exciting to see Henderson continue to explore this.
If anyone is interested in being involved in this process, please contact City Hall.
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