WRCC celebrates 15th anniversary
West River Community Center celebrates its 15 year anniversary this week.
The week of events began Tuesday, May 14, with a free admission day.
A friendly run/walk competition, whether on the facility's indoor track or on its treadmills, will be held today.
Thursday will be an informational day with booths to highlight WRCC programs and for staff to answer questions from the community.
The event culminates Friday with 15% off annual membership for new members.
WRCC boasts more than 6,800 members, Matt Mack, facility operations manager, said.
The most members WRCC has had was more than 7,000 during the 2015-16 oil boom.
"Things are looking really good," he said. "Compared to when we were going through the oil boom, these numbers are looking good."
The 15 year anniversary is an exciting one, Dickinson Parks & Recreation Executive Director James Kramer said.
Kramer has been a part of WRCC since its doors opened in 2004.
"It makes you realize how appreciative you are for the community's support. Ultimately, that's what we're for, to support the community, but if they don't use it, we have nothing to work off of," he said. "We just get tremendous support, and it's very rewarding."
West River Community Center was groundbreaking for North Dakota. It was the first publicly-owned park district community center and facility in the state.
The model has since been followed by Williston, Grand Forks and Jamestown, among others.
The challenges in bringing the facility to the community have become part of its legend; the project failed fives times with voters before passing by a narrow margin.
"It started out as an indoor football arena, a West River dome," Kramer said. "In between, there were things attached to the university. There was a library expansion plus a community center. We tried every avenue we could."
He added, "It was a trying experience for the community."
Dennis Johnson, who, as Dickinson's mayor, supported the project, said the challenge has not been exaggerated.
"There had been a couple of other buildings voted down," he said. "The group that got behind what turned out to be this building worked really hard."
Rhonda Dukart was tasked with the fundraising and marketing for the project.
"As long as citizens understood it did not affect their property taxes at all. It was a sales tax measure we had to get passed," she said. "We did extensive marketing and presentations to businesses. We went door-to-door with flyers. We did radio and TV. Just a very intensive campaign to show the benefits of a place like this."
There was no building design when the half-cent sales tax was brought to the community, Johnson said.
"We promised we would meet with community members over an extended period of time and listen to their thoughts, which we did," he said. "We had several months of those meetings before we settled on an initial building that would fit the budget we had."
Since opening in 2004, WRCC has literally grown from its original 78,000 square feet.
"We thought, what more would we ever need?" Kramer said. "Now, here we sit with about 138,000 square feet, and we've added office space, a tennis addition. We've changed up the gymnasium, added an outdoor pool. It really is way beyond what we ever imagined it was going to be."
Dukart continues to appreciate the facility's importance.
"I still get goosebumps when I walk in there," she said. "That project was many years in the making."
Johnson, too, still appreciates WRCC's value to the community.
"I feel really good about the community center. I think it turned out to be a great building and a great addition to the community," he said. "Every time I'm up there, and I see a whole variety of people using it. It's very gratifying."
The success of WRCC has been humbling, Kramer said.
"To see the success story of not only the facility, but what's happened around the facility, from residential to commercial, and the hospital and the clinic, it has truly been one of the better economic development tools Dickinson has ever seen."