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Talk of $3.25 million expansion of Dickinson's West River Community Center

To keep up with a growing city, the West River Community Center in Dickinson may soon undergo a $3.25 million expansion, officials say.

Parks and Recreation Director James Kramer said the building is taking on more people than it was designed for.

"When you see that total membership creeping toward 6,500 and 7,000, those numbers weren't even on the radar when we designed this building," Kramer said. "Not even close."

How the project would be funded hasn't been determined.

"There is a half-cent sales tax in place for the Community Center," Kramer said. "So that's the most logical source."

He added the existing building will be paid off in a year.

The center has been gaining 30 to 50 members per month for the last year, he added.

However, before shovels are in the dirt, Kramer and Dickinson Park Board President Mike Lefor said the need to expand must be proven.

"We're going to be doing surveys of different areas of the Community Center to determine specific usage so that when we make decisions on the potential expansion we're doing it to where the need is," he said. "Before you make an investment in an expansion you have to know how the building is being used and get public input in terms of what the public would like to see and look at the funding."

Terri Stevenson, a Dickinson resident who uses the center to teach fitness classes, work out and entertain her children, doesn't think it will be hard to show the need.

"Oftentimes it's just so crowded it's hard to even find a spot some days to stretch or do sit-ups or anything like that," Stevenson said. "It's a good problem to have, but we're just busting at the seams there."

Staff members are getting complaints that it's difficult to get on exercise equipment because it's always in use, Kramer added.

The building was designed for expansion and the plan is to add on to the northeast side, he said.

First, is a $250,000 addition of four offices and expansion of the day care, which can begin by next fall, Kramer said. Lefor described that portion as critical.

The rest of the 1,740 square-foot expansion will depend on research and demand, but may include more fitness equipment room and basketball courts, Kramer said.

"Once all these components are added, it's pretty much what that ultimate project was thought to be eight years ago," he said. "If our community would double in size or grow much more, then you'd be looking at a second location."

Even if population and membership plummets, Kramer is confident an expansion would be worthwhile.