ST. JOSEPH — Jacob Wetterling might be honored in the design of St. Joseph's community center.
The St. Joseph City Council approved Tuesday concept plans for the community center, which is designed to be built east of the city's government center and make use of Colts Academy space.
Concept plans include a courtyard that highlights traits Wetterling lived by and architectural elements that reflect the number 11, which is the number Wetterling wore for sports. Plans also include a possible tower with a lantern lit 24 hours a day, which relates to the "Lights on for Jacob Wetterling" effort community members participated in over the years.
"We did incorporate a little bit of the Wetterling name into this project early on to give it some special meaning," said Murray Mack of HMA Architects, who presented concept plans at the meeting.
A St. Cloud labor union is planning to partner with the city of St. Joseph to raise money for the city's community center. Jane Conrad of the East Central Area Labor Council said she has met with both the city and the Wetterling family, and the union is willing to help facilitate fundraising — through grants, business donations and community donations — for the center.
"What better way to build community than to build a community center?" Conrad asked. "This is something people can come together on."
Patty Wetterling said Monday she and her husband, Jerry, were really moved by the idea of honoring their son Jacob at the future community center.
"I loved the idea. It was just so heartwarming," she said. "We'll jump in and help however we can."
Wetterling called the concept drawings "amazing," and thinks the community center and its tentative Jacob Wetterling Recreation Center would be a nice tribute to things her son loved.
"Jacob played all kinds of sports: basketball, soccer, football and hockey," she said.
Wetterling said she and her husband moved to St. Joseph in 1977, and the mayor then wanted to build a recreation center for youth.
"This has been a long time coming," she said. "There needs to be something for kids here."
Jacob Wetterling was kidnapped near his home and killed on Oct. 22, 1989. His abduction remained a mystery for about 27 years until his remains were found on Sept. 1, 2016.
The City Council unanimously approved Monday pledging $6 million of sales tax to help pay for a community center east of the city's government center. Voters in St. Joseph and five other contiguous cities first approved the sales tax in 1999 and renewed it in 2014, with about 6 percent of the revenue to be spent on regional projects and the rest to be split among the cities for projects they choose.
Council member Dale Wick made a motion to move forward with the approximate $12 million project, with the motion mandating that a minimum of $6 million would need to be raised through fundraising efforts within two years. Mayor Rick Schultz seconded the motion.
A task force studying the community center recommended the City Council approve the community center in two phases: The first phase would build new gyms and the second phase would repurpose the Colts Academy structure for senior and youth space.
Murray said Little Saints Academy, which uses space in Colts Academy, will continue to use space in the community center. Preliminary designs also show space for historical displays, the food shelf, banquet rooms and an animal control area.
Concept plans also show three standard-sized basketball courts with a walking track on a mezzanine overlooking the gym. In front of the gym space are plans for a possible kids zone and climbing wall.
"This is all visioning at this point. None of this is settled," Mack said.
Schultz suggested that moving forward the task force, which had about 25 members, be pared down to better focus on specific planning areas. City staff plan to continue to work on securing architectural and construction management services.
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