The City of Seward is exploring funding options for building a $20 million recreation center. I’ve been reading over the feasibility study, and I have serious concerns. The purpose of the study to access the feasibility of a recreational center that would meet the City’s needs. It seems there is a rush to funding this expensive project based on more “we want” than “we need.” I’ve got questions.

What are the needs that are going to be addressed by this facility? How were these needs defined and is this the only way to meet them? Yes, a survey was conducted but that was only collected public option, not hard data about current facility usage. How well are existing facilities used?

The larger square footage of the proposed structure is for a gymnasium. These already exist in our community. In fact we have four — the study left out the Seward Elementary gym. Are they being used to the maximum? I didn’t see data on that. The plan also includes a senior center. We’ve got one, and according to Dana Paperman’s report to the city, the proposed one isn’t big enough to do what they are doing now in the current larger space. A teen center is proposed; we’ve got one, yes maybe not big enough. The new center offers meeting space. We’ve got nice meeting rooms at the Seward Public Library, the Rae Building, and Temple studios as well as the schools and churches. Are these maxed out? Are groups currently having trouble finding meeting rooms? In other words, where is the research to show true need?

The only new thing I saw in the plan was the walking track, and with our icy winters, yes, that would be nice. But lots of things would be nice. However, we live in a lovely small town and as a small town we forego things that big towns and cities have. Wouldn’t it be a lot cheaper to maintain a nice walking track outside?

Before we start looking at a new recreation center let’s make sure that we really need one. Let’s make sure that the current space is used to its maximum. Maybe we need to spend money hiring someone coordinating the use of current facilities. It would be a lot cheaper to pay for a community schools program than to build a whole new building. Want to add something new to our town? How about a hockey rink or a new swimming pool to replace the aging one at Seward High? Reading this plan suggests that the city has the cart before horse, and nobody’s looking in the horse’s mouth.

Dan Walker