Shawano School District looking into building community rec center with city's help

SHAWANO, Wis. The Shawano School Board unanimously approved $25,000 in funding on Monday to develop plans for a possible community recreation center at the Shawano High School. The community recreation center would be a joint project between the Shawano School District and the City of Shawano.

Shawano School District Administrator, Gary Cumberland said the idea came about a year ago, after coaches at Shawano High School saw overcrowding in the weight room. Cumberland says some students were told they couldn't use the weight room, because it was too full. He says at times students were even tripping over each other.

Cumberland says the city has shown interest in the possible recreation center, which would be open to everyone in the community.

"We have a community education program that we rent out the facilities to different community organizations, the city has a recreation department and have actually used some of the school space for some of the programs they have, and so we're wondering, is there a way to partner? Because in a way we're kind of partnering now, but is there a way that we could really ramp up the partnering possibilities and combine some of our resources instead of working against one another?” said Cumberland.

Cumberland says Shawano currently has a community rec center but it is aging and needs remodeling.

Shawano School Board Vice President, Michael Sleeper, says the rec center proposal would be done in three phases.

"I know from anecdotal conversation with friends and acquaintances that there are many times when facilities are crowded or not available, plus the city’s facility being an old facility like our school facilities, it could stand to be updated, and it just makes more sense for the city and for us to at least explore the opportunity to build something new that's done well and done right," said Sleeper.

Sleeper says first phase would include an evaluation of the high school rec center and a survey, to see whether there is support from the community.

Cumberland says if there is enough support then the proposal would become a referendum, if not, the plans would get scrapped.

"We want to find out if this is even something that the city and the school district can partner in. I mean do we have enough resources to do that and what it might be, so it's really early on. I guess I just want to make people understand that it's early on and we're going to continue to hopefully look at this and find ways that it will benefit our community as well as our school district," he said.

If the referendum does gets approved in the plan’s second phase, then the rec center would be built as part of the third phase.

Sleeper says nearby communities have done similar plans.

"We know Ashwaubenon has done a significant initiative, Wrightstown apparently passed something recently, our neighbor to the south, Clintonville, had a project like this a number of years ago and so assuming we'd move forward it would definitely be my thinking at least that we should visit some of these communities, see what they've done, the lessons learned, what would they do differently, what worked well for them and so forth," adds Sleeper.

Sleeper says now that funding to create a plan is approved, a committee made up of community members, school staff and board members will meet and discuss plans of the first phase on Tuesday.

"We're enthusiastic and optimistic going in these initial stages,” said Sleeper. “We'll see what the city says, what the citizens of the city and the school district say, but I'm very hopeful and somewhat confident that we can put together a proposal that makes sense to everybody and can move forward."