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Work to begin soon on Vikings Activity Center in Northwood

NORTHWOOD — Officials will begin work on the Vikings Activity Center in the spring, as fundraising efforts place the wish list facility closer to a reality for the north Iowa community.

The $5.3 million Vikings Activity Center should ease a space crunch impacting youth and school teams and also provide a fitness center for area residents.

“For the school, the activity center will allow our youth and junior high athletic programs more options for practice and games, without competition with the high school programs for the facilities,” said Northwood-Kensett Secondary Principal Keith Fritz.

Groundbreaking for the two-story, 37,100-square-foot facility is tentatively scheduled for April, and construction work should conclude in February 2022.

“Our belief is that people are more likely to move to rural communities like Northwood if these programs and activities are in place in a facility that is available to all,” Fritz said.

The main level will include two courts, areas for two wrestling/cheerleading mats, locker rooms, a multi-purpose room, pitching and hitting areas for baseball,  and office space available for lease (a local physical therapist has already reserved one of them). The upper level will include a walking/running track and separate areas for cardio machines and weightlifting equipment.

The facility will be attached to the high school on the northeast side.

The general public will be able to purchase memberships.

“In addition to the benefits for the school from the greatly-expanded gym and indoor track space, it will provide a place for year-round recreational, health and wellness, social, fitness and educational programs and activities for the entire community,” said Fritz, who is also a member of the fundraising committee.

Through January, the facility’s fundraising committee had raised more than $1 million, including $453,000 in grant funds from Enhance Iowa.

The Enhance Iowa program is housed under the Iowa Economic Development Authority and supports “construction of recreational, cultural, educational or entertainment facilities that enhance the quality of life” in those communities.

The bulk of the funding for the building is coming from the school district. Officials have committed $4.2 million to the project.

The $112,000 difference still has to be raised.

Fundraising efforts thus far have taken place at “various sports and public events,” said Bradley Christianson, president of the fundraising committee.

“At these events, we shared images of the facility, sold clothing and handed out brochures to the public, in addition to answering their questions,” Christianson said.

The group has received assistance from foundations, trusts, businesses, individuals, graduating classes and municipalities.

Supporters also sent mailers to the community and followed up with supporters of key projects in the past.

An ongoing drive selling legacy bricks will continue into the spring, as those donations “continue to trickle in,” Christianson said.

After more than two years of work, no additional fundraisers are currently planned.