Humboldt: ready for recreation
New 71,000- square-foot center will further health and wellness
HUMBOLDT — A new 71,000- square-foot recreation center will provide Humboldt community members with a chance to improve their health and wellness year-round.
The structure is being built just north of the Humboldt High School on the other side of Wildcat Road. The addition was made possible by the Ken and Marilyn Nielsen family. The family is donating the spacious multi-million dollar facility to the city of Humboldt when construction is completed next winter.
It will include an indoor walking track, two basketball courts that can be configured into smaller basketball courts, batting cages, two racquetball courts, a weight room, cardio studio, small conference room, multiple offices, a kitchen, locker rooms, a CrossFit area, a spin studio, and a kid’s room.
Recreation was identified last year by City Administrator Travis Goedken as an area of focus.
According to Goedken, people are more interested in the recreation available in the cities they live in than in years past.
“We talked about quality of life and attracting a younger work force, that’s what you need to do is provide additional features beyond water, streets, sewer, police and fire protection,” he said. “This will be a huge asset to the community.”
Goedken is grateful for the donation.
“There’s no way the city would have been able to pull off something to this extent or even come close without the generosity of the Nielsen family,” he said. “We wouldn’t have been able to do anything near this.”
The center will require a membership for use of the facilities, Goedken said.
“The main purpose of this is a membership use rec facility,” he said. “We will have a partnership with the school, but the main purpose of this facility is for the members of the community.”
The city will invest about $500,000 in extending utilities to the site, Goedken said.
At least one full-time employee will be hired to manage the new center.
Chris Shaner, the city’s recreation director, will also have an office there.
Goedken said a large number of people in the community enjoy walking for exercise.
“The indoor walking track –with the Iowa winter, there’s not too many people that want to be outside walking the streets when it’s bitterly cold or windy out.”
“The opposite applies, too, when it’s July and 95 percent humidity, nobody wants to be walking in that either,” he said. “This will be a climate-controlled space for people to jog and exercise.”
Goedken said gym space throughout the city is limited.
“Besides our rec, we have a number of traveling teams, basketball, baseball, all looking for gym space,” he said. “We end up booked solid for the old middle school gym as kind of the publicly used gym space.”
The new recreation center will alleviate that issue, Goedken said.
The city will collect revenue from the center.
“Once the city assumes operations, we will be responsible for ongoing operational costs, which the revenues from the memberships should offset all of those,” Goedken said.
The Nielsen family will be eligible for state and federal tax deductions for the donation as well as some state incentives, but there will be no financial help from the city. Once it is turned over to the city there will be no taxes collected on it.
Backers have set up a fund through the Humboldt County Community Foundation through which people may donate for a tax deduction. The fund will ensure the long term sustainability of the structure and help purchase new equipment.
The existing West River Recreation Center, located at 808 18th St N., will close and be demolished when the new recreation center opens.
West River was built sometime in the 1970s.
That facility’s board has agreed to disband.
The weight room in the basement of city hall will likely be closed to the general public as well.
Updated lighting and signage along Sumner Avenue are just a couple of ways the city may look to improve its downtown, according to Goedken.
“There’s a lot of ideas out there that the council will be taking into consideration,” he said. “We did budget to build out a streetscape downtown.”
Bumpouts, permeable pavers, and added greenery are to be added at some point, he said.
Street lamps have been a concern.
“Residents have expressed their frustration with it,” he said. “Half seem to be functioning as they should.”
A severe lightning strike knocked out radio equipment and shorted out traffic signals in 2017, according to Goedken.
He said the city is looking at replacing the those lights, which he estimated to cost about $130,000 to upgrade all of the intersections on main street.
Alissa O’Connor, director of the Humboldt County Development Association, was complimentary of the city’s downtown efforts.
“It’s really unique from an economic development standpoint that the city is taking so much time and effort on the downtown,” she said. “You usually don’t see that from the city.”
The Humboldt County Memorial hospital gained approval from the U.S. Department of Agriculture for a 40-year, fixed-rate loan to support a major building project that could begin as early as this spring.
A $13.9 million loan with an interest rate of 3.25 percent has been made possible by a USDA program created to boost economic development in rural communities.
According to Michelle Sleiter, the hospital’s chief executive officer, this loan is a key part of the financing arrangements for the facilities master plan that has been developed to keep HCMH state-of-the-art in the years ahead.
She said the overall budget for a hospital expansion that is being proposed is $19.2 million.
A major assessment began in 2015 to determine what enhancements were needed to guarantee the hospital’s readiness to serve its community for many years hence, Sleiter said.
The plan being considered to bring about a facilities expansion envisions the renovation of existing space near the present hospital entrance and the construction of a two-story addition in the area that is currently the hospital’s parking lot.
“It’s almost 40,000 square feet, 39,000-plus,” Sleiter said of the new construction. “There’s almost 4,000 square feet of renovation in the current hospital building.”
A major portion of the new space would be devoted to a new location for the primary care physicians who serve the community and their office teams.
“It’s a two-story building. The first floor would be the primary care clinic as well as the new specialty clinic,” Sleiter said. “They are making up about 20,000 square feet of the new space.”
The existing primary care clinic would disappear once the new structure is ready.
“The intention will be to demolish the current clinic building and that space would be transitioned into parking,” Sleiter said. “So, it will increase parking from 60 to 100 spaces.”
Improving the attractiveness of Humboldt as a place to practice for primary care physicians is a key factor in the building plan that is under consideration.
Sleiter said it is understood by just about everyone that attracting and keeping those care providers is important to the future of the hospital and the community.
“The most important thing is attracting primary care physicians,” she said. “They drive our business. An attractive facility will help us in the recruitment and retention of the providers. So, that’s been our No. 1 focus.”
Having the primary care clinic part of the hospital building will also be a convenience for a key part of the patient population HCMH serves, according to Sleiter.
“Medicare is about 60 percent of our business,” she said. “Having our services under one roof is very conducive to the health care of our citizens here in Humboldt.”
The project will strengthen the hospital’s capabilities in a number of care areas in addition to primary care. The new and renovated spaces also will benefit specialty services, rehabilitation services, cardiopulmonary services, diabetic education, dietary support, patient education, Humboldt County Public Health and assorted internal HCMH administrative needs.
Securing the USDA loan was the key development that makes it economically feasible for this major construction undertaking to move forward, according to Sleiter.
She said it is not anticipated that either a major fundraising capital campaign or increased tax levies will be needed to accomplish this construction project.
“Based on our current financial feasibility study we are able to process this improvement project and renovation with our operational funds,” she said.
As this significant enhancement of HCMH draws closer to becoming real, Sleiter said it is an exciting time for her, board members and everyone who cares about the hospital.
“It’s scary and exciting all at the same time,” she said. “For the sustainability for the future, this is definitely a long-term strategy for us.”
Her enthusiasm for the endeavor is in sync with a statement about the project released by Rod Harklau, the board president:
“The board of trustees has considered an expansion that would include a physician’s clinic for a number of years. Humboldt County Memorial Hospital is a great asset for our area businesses and residents alike. Our goal is to provide the best care and be a provider of choice for the county in an ever-changing health industry. We are currently taking necessary steps towards making a final decision to proceed.”
A brand-new Fareway Store located just two blocks west of the intersection of U.S. Highway 169 and Iowa Highway 3 at 1700 10th Ave. N., opened in the summer of 2017.
The 19,000-square-foot, state-of-the art facility replaces an earlier Fareway Store in downtown Humboldt at 710 First Ave. N. that opened nearly a half century ago in 1970.
According to information provided by Fareway, the project is about a $4 million investment in Humboldt. The replacement building is about 13 percent larger than the old store, which is now closed and is due to be sold.
The goal in building the new structure is to “provide increased options for consumers, while continuing to offer an unmatched, full-service meat department; farm-fresh produce; low, competitive prices and the highest level of customer service that area residents have come to expect from Fareway,” according to a statement Fareway Stores Inc. released at the time the project was announced.
The new store offers an expanded produce area, larger meat case and more product variety.
A festive grand opening was held June 28 to showcase the store and familiarize patrons with the expanded options now available to them.
The management team of the new Humboldt Fareway remains the same as at the previous site. Jeremy Riesselman is the grocery manager. Don Goldsmith is market manager.
Fareway Stores Inc. is a Midwest grocery company that is growing rapidly. The company currently has 117 store locations in Iowa, Illinois, Minnesota, Nebraska and South Dakota. It opened its first store in 1938. Emily Toribio, a corporate outreach and communications coordinator at Fareway, said the new store in Humboldt is part of a companywide effort to freshen or replace old stores and make sure they are up to date to serve the public.
The AmericInn Hotel & Suites is up and running just off U.S. Highway 169 in Humboldt.
The hotel officially opened in August 2017, O’Connor said.
Based on feedback received from businesses in the Humboldt area, O’Connor said the addition of the hotel was seen as a need.
“We have seen great success with that,” she said. “Our occupancy rates have been much higher than we expected.”
The 30,000-square-foot, two-story hotel features 41 rooms as well as a breakfast area and pub, according to O’Connor.
The hotel features an indoor pool and a 24-hour coffee bar, according to information from the company’s website.
A day care center called Kiddie Cats Child Care and Learning Center, is set to open sometime in the summer, according to O’Connor.
The center is located on the north side of Mease Elementary School, on Third Street North in Dakota City.
“Construction is going very well,” she said. “We have a July completion on that. We are finishing the licensing process now and then will work to hire staff from there.”
The mission of the day care center is to engage young minds through learning and play.
The approximately 7,000-square-foot facility will service 107 kids, O’Connor said.
About 40 new jobs were added in Humboldt when Misty Harbor Pontoons purchased the former Born Free Motorcoach facilities, according to O’Connor.
That industry is located at 1505 13th St. N., off U.S. Highway 169.
“That was a big expansion for us,” she said. “I think they already have the 40 employees they were looking to hire.”
Misty Harbor Pontoons is headquartered in Fort Dodge. The company was founded in Humboldt in 1988.
In 1990, Dave and Lisa Wilson, of Kevcon Corp., purchased Misty Harbor.
The conversion to the popular cylinder tubes began in 1992 and with a need for a larger facility, production was moved to the west side of Fort Dodge in 1993 where it has been since.
In January 2017, Dave Wilson and Lisa Wilson sold the company to the Marine Group LLC and its corporate leaders: President John Jergens, Vice President Tom Christy, and George Thomas, of Indiana.
Jergens is a Humboldt native. Christy is from Dayton.
Misty Harbor offers four different series of pontoons — the Explore, Adventure, Biscayne Bay and Skye.
It was estimated that the company would produce close to 2,000 boats in 2017.
The boats are shipped through much of the United States and some internationally, including in Canada, Australia, and China.
Terrence Dwyer and Robert Wolf contributed to this story.