NEW ULM — After years of planning and preparation, the New Ulm Park and Recreation Center is open to the public.
A special ribbon cutting and open house event were held Friday with several local supporters who made the recreation center improvements possible.
Before the ceremony, Park and Recreation Director Tom Schmitz spoke on the history of the project. It dated back to the 1990s. Over 20 years ago New Ulm approved its first 1/2% sales tax to cover the cost to build the New Ulm Civic Center, triple the size of the Community Center and turn Vogel Arena into a multi-purpose fieldhouse.
In 2016, the city approved the second round of projects, covered again by a 1/2% sales tax.
The recreation center expansion and renovation was funded with approximately $15,000,000 in revenue from the local 1/2% sales tax; authorized by New Ulm voters, the City Council and the State of Minnesota.
Schmitz said recreation center project would not be possible without the work of the Park and Recreation Commission, Reinvest New Ulm (RENU) Committee, the RENU Oversight Committee, past and present city councils, mayors and the voters.
State Senator Gary Dahms spoke during the ribbon-cutting. He said good things like the recreation center happen when people come together. He thanked all partners for making the Rec Center possible.
Mayor Terry Sveine said the rec center was another source of pride for the New Ulm community. He believed it would be a great place for people of all ages and be a regional draw.
City Councilor and RENU Committee member Larry Mack said the project started seven years ago and involved several meetings to plan. Mack credited city staff for listening to user groups and finding what people wanted.
“I am proud it came together,” Mack said.
Councilor David Christian thanked the voters for approving the sales tax twice.
Former New Ulm Park and Rec Commission President, Toby Freier gave the final speech. He said with the completion of the recreation center, New Ulm had a lot to be grateful for and had a lot to hope for in the future. The recreation center represented a unique regional attraction.
Freier said this was evidence there were no better communities than New Ulm.
He thanked community leaders for planning and putting this project together and said “It now up to us to put it to go use.”
Following the ribbon-cutting free admission was granted to the rec center. Visitors were free to take self-guided tours until 8 p.m.