County, city looking at community center along with Salvation Army

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, May 10, 2005

A state-of-the-art community center may soon become a reality in Alabaster.

The city, Shelby County Commission and local Salvation Army are partnering for what could be a modern community center at the Old Siluria Mill property.

Much of the funding for the multi-million-dollar complex would come from the estate of Joan B. Kroc, wife of McDonald’s founder Ray Kroc.

&uot;It looks like it’s closer to becoming a reality,&uot; Alabaster Mayor David Frings said. &uot;It would be positive for not only the city but the county.

&uot;That was something in our master plan, that we would eventually build an indoor recreation center,&uot; he added.

Mrs. Kroc died in October 2003 from cancer. Last year, the Salvation Army received a $1.5 billion gift from her estate for the development of 30 to 35 community centers across the country. Alabaster has been targeted as a potential location.

&uot;We’re in the early stages,&uot; county manager Alex Dudchock said Monday. &uot;It’s very exciting. We’ve been working closely with the city of Alabaster and the Salvation Army.&uot;

Capt Kevin Strickland and his wife, Rita, of the Alabaster Salvation Army chapter as well as Frings have played key roles in the early stages of the possible project.

The county commission unanimously voted to &uot;support and commit its resources&uot; toward the establishment of the center, according to a resolution passed Monday.

&uot;The county manager is directed and fully authorized to continue the applicable action associated with partnering with the City of Alabaster and the Salvation Army for the further development of this major project for Shelby County.&uot;

The resolution also requests the local Salvation Army chapter prepare the preliminary application and needs assessment &uot;as soon as possible.&uot;

&uot;That’s the first thing the Salvation Army needs, is a feasibility study,&uot; Frings said.

According to a Salvation Army press release, half of the donation must be used for construction and the other half to partially support operating costs. The gift does not cover existing programs.

One such center already exists in San Diego, where Ray and Joan Kroc lived. The center was funded fully by a $92 million gift from Mrs. Kroc, and opened nearly three years ago. It includes an ice arena, gymnasium, three swimming pools, rock climbing tower and challenge course, fitness area, 600-seat theater for the performing arts and school for visual and performing arts.

Numerous programs are offered at the center including sports leagues, computer classes, fitness classes and meeting space for corporate or civic groups.

According to the Salvation Army, the San Diego center has served nearly 750,000 people since it opened. Similar centers are planned across the country, from Atlanta to Coeur d’ Alene, Idaho.

&uot;You look at some of these being built nationally, and they are huge,&uot; Dudchock.

While an Alabaster center likely would not be that large, it still could be a $10 to $12 million complex, according to Frings.

It would likely include indoor courts for basketball and volleyball, indoor or outdoor swimming pools, a multipurpose weight room and other rooms that could be used for a variety of uses.

The center could be used by senior citizens, the YMCA and other groups. Local entities would be responsible for paying part of the operating costs.

Frings said that could be accomplished with public funding and pledges from local businesses.

Frings said it is too early to guess how much local funding would be required.

If everything works out, it may not be too long before the dream becomes a reality, according to Frings.

&uot;Theoretically, you could see something done in the next 12 months,&uot; he said. &uot;It just depends&uot; on local support