A generation ago, in the weeks after Pella Corporation announced its arrival in Carroll, we had a dinner with leaders of the estimable company, a light manufacturer that helped lift us from the vice grip of the farm crisis.
Many people and many reasons were behind Pella’s decision to locate in Carroll and game change economic life here. But what we heard repeatedly: a Recreation Center of surpassing quality in a community of 10,000 served as a major draw, both practically for a company looking out for its employees’ interests and as something of a signal about the city’s intentions, ambitions and collective will.
Four years ago, we were in the offices of U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, a former governor of our state, during a meeting of west-central Iowa economic-development leaders in which Vilsack recalled being so impressed with what he was hearing about the Carroll Rec Center that he drove from eastern Iowa where he was then-mayor of Mount Pleasant to see it.
The Rec Center is the incubator of great talent. Nick Nurse, the pride of Carroll and one of the NBA’s finest modern coaches, honed his basketball skills there. So did the Haluskas.
Hundreds and hundreds of Carroll-area residents have walked and swam their way back from surgeries and addiction and all manner and variety of maladies at the Carroll Recreation Center.
It’s also been a hub of cultural activity, from plays to dance performances to larger gatherings such as the late Art Neu’s funeral.
But the Rec Center is old and outdated. We need to wash away the 1977 vibe, replace it with a future-minded facility for all Carroll residents.
The good news: There’s a plan to do it.
The better news: Carroll can afford this.
As a city, we soon will have debt paid off on the outdoor aquatic center, the new cemetery building and other features.
Local option sales tax projections are robust. The general fund is sound.
As other communities are surrendering to rural decline and reeling from the economic haymaker that is COVID-19, we can take advantage of favorable interest rates and the hunger of contractors for work with the Rec Center.
We can show the rest of the state that Carroll is still Carroll and separate our community further from competing communities.
The Rec Center is the right project at the right time. We urge a “yes” vote on Tuesday, Sept. 8.