Survey allows proposed Ely Area Rec Complex to take another step forward

We’re encouraged by the results of a survey on the proposed Ely Area Recreation Complex. This is an important step toward our community gaining a very important asset that will improve the quality of life here.
A total of 494 surveys were returned last winter, showing how much people are interested in this project.
That’s really what this is, a project. And like any major project there are numerous hurdles to get over along the way. What we like is the method being used.
Step one should always be need. Is there a need for the project? If yes, continue to step two. If no, stop. There is no need looking at funding mechanisms and ongoing costs if there isn’t a need in the first place.
The study results are in-depth on a range of topics. When asked how this project compares to other Ely area issues, the answers were revealing. Only 26 percent viewed it as a low priority with five percent answering “don’t know.” There was a 69 percent positive response rate between the project being a medium, high or very high priority.
The survey was balanced and accurately reflective in three important areas: age, household income and how long the respondent has lived in the Ely area. In the age brackets, 31 percent were 65 and older, 21 percent were 55 to 64, 20 percent were 45 to 54, 12 percent were 35 to 44 and 16 percent were under 35.
Income bracket results were similar and the majority (56 percent) or respondents have lived in Ely for 21 years or more.
Just what the complex will include is still up for discussion but there is a clear interest in an indoor aquatics and swimming center, an indoor running and walking track, and a weight room and cardiovascular equipment area.
This is much more than when a community swimming pool was proposed in the early 1990s. Even with a major donor willing to pay for construction of the pool at that time, the project never became reality. The reasons include a lack of community support and a limited user base.
By including other features this project reaches out to more people and expands the number of uses beyond a pool. One of the examples being put forward is the new recreation center in Grand Marais. If you haven’t seen it, there is a sloping entry area and railings that extend into the water for those looking to do physical therapy. This is a definite need here in Ely.
Because the bottom line is still the bottom line in any project, the survey did touch on funding mechanisms. The top answers were: combination of tax sources (47%), no tax funding (25%, sales tax (14%), don’t know (11%) and property tax (3%).
If the issue of building and operating a new community indoor complex was put on a future ballot for funding, 46 percent would vote in favor, 19 percent might vote in favor, 19 percent were not sure and only 16 percent would vote against it.
Any person who has worked on a major project will tell you the big issues are one thing but the details are at another, higher level.
We like that first the big picture questions are being answered. Do we want to have a new indoor recreational facility in Ely? If yes, then let’s advance to step two. So far it looks like the project has taken a huge step in the right direction.