Community center ‘buzz’ is in the air at ACTION Park Rapids

Meetings are upcoming Feb. 23 and March 1, respectively, for groups discussing the possibility of a Park Rapids community center and a gymnastics facility.

RaNae Doll discussed the local gymnastics group's interest in developing a standalone gymnastics facility Feb. 9, 2023, at ACTION Park Rapids. This design is one of several concepts that gymnastics coach Cyrus Gust shared with the group in anticipation of a meeting planned for 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, March 1 in the Park Rapids High School "aquarium," next to the media center.
Contributed / RaNae Doll

Public interest in developing a community center was a hot topic Thursday, Feb. 9 at ACTION Park Rapids.

Donna Anderson with the University of Minnesota Hubbard County Extension said she has heard over and over about this perceived need. “And so I thought, OK, maybe it’s time now to start a gathering … where everybody can come together and share: How do we go about getting this done?”

Anderson acknowledged that the city has said no in the past, but “I think maybe this is the time that people are more interested in coming together and kind of make that work.”

Anderson reported already getting together with representatives of several agencies to discuss the idea, and a second gathering is set for 4 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 23 at the Armory Arts & Events Center.

“I would love to be a part of that,” said Connie Carmichael with Living at Home of the Park Rapids Area. “I have had a blue-sky vision for seniors, for intergenerational stuff.”


She added that Lutheran Social Services would love to have a congregate dining space. “They would pay to build a commercial kitchen,” said Carmichael. “They would lease space, so we’ve got some sustainability dollars. Living at Home needs more space. I think, if we did it right, we could really go somewhere and be a model for not only our state but across the country.”

Based on discussions at conferences across the U.S., Carmichael said community centers have worked in other communities. “Let’s really jump on that. I think it could be really something.”

County Commissioner Char Christenson speculated that the reason the city wasn’t supportive of the previous community center proposal was because they didn’t know how it was going to be funded, long-term. She said the county board has had the same conversation.

“It’s not that we’re opposed to this at all,” she said. “It’d be a wonderful addition. Part of the conversation needs to be, as long as you’re dreaming, then dream about sustainable funding that doesn’t rely only on tax dollars.”

Derek Ricke with the Park Rapids Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce agreed, “What we need are big, private partners, and that part needs to get figured out before we can really have any discussion on what it looks like, unfortunately.”

For example, Christenson noted that Perham’s community center needed private partners, with Ricke adding that it’s still not funding itself. “We need one or more private tenants, long-term,” he said.

Ricke stressed that he’s “a huge advocate for (the community center), but the finance piece is where we really need to work. Figuring out who those tenants are, or what they could be, is going to be the hard part for us.”

Heather Rogosheske with Family Safety Network added that Walker’s community center has had the same struggle.


Mark Anderson with the Park Rapids Rotary noted that the Boys and Girls Club in Detroit Lakes has had some success with a sustainable model that Park Rapids could perhaps build on.

“Boys and Girls Club actually doesn’t really support the program,” he said. “They’ve done it with big donors and programs. Again, I like focusing on the youth. I think that’s where we have to start”

Anderson said Detroit Lakes’ facility offers after-school programs and a preschool, as well as “places for people to have some good quality time with some mentor type of thing.”

Mary Niklaus with the Park Rapids Area Library said the library definitely wants to be involved in the community center discussion. “We believe that we can provide a lot in a community center if there’s room for a library in there, too,” she said. “Then, just have a one-stop resource place.”

Gymnastics building

Pediatrician RaNae Doll acknowledged the “buzz” about the community center. “It’s so exciting to hear how many people are already on board,” she said, “and trying to reinvigorate this idea.”

As the parent of a gymnast, Doll noted that there was also interest a few years ago in developing a standalone gymnastic building. “And then there was the referendum, and then there was COVID,” and gymnastics was not included in the plans for the school improvements approved by voters in 2021.

“So, now the committee is talking again about the possibility of a gymnastics gym,” said Doll.

Noting that many young children express an interest in gymnastics, Doll said several communities in the area already have significant gymnastics facilities with a lot of community involvement.


“Park Rapids has a very small space in the high school that is used for their community ed from the littles, the 3-year-olds, up to the high school gymnasts,” said Doll. “It’s also used by our (Alternative Learning Center) students in the high school. It would be a huge benefit to the community.”

She said the committee isn’t ruling out any possibilities for how this would work, noting that Bemidji has a private gymnastics facility while Detroit Lakes’ is city-owned and Perham’s and Alexandria’s are on school property. Meanwhile, the DL and Perham programs are run by the local gymnastics group, while Alex’s is run by the school district’s community education program.

Doll also suggested that the gymnastics gym could be part of a community center.

NOTE: This article has been updated to correct a misstatement.

Robin Fish is a staff reporter at the Park Rapids Enterprise. Contact him at or 218-252-3053.
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