Britton building toward new community center

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Farm Forum

Anonymous donors have pledged $1 million to build a new community center in Britton to replace the Kidder Gym.

With those pledges, the community has been challenged to match that amount to construct the new facility with an estimated cost of $2.4 million, according to Paula Jensen, the Langford representative for Glacial Lakes Area Development.

“The number of $2.4 million might actually end up being more, though,” Jensen said, basing her comment on past projects.

Britton-Hecla Superintendent Steve Benson said the small group of donors wishes to remain anonymous for now and has set a goal date of Aug. 1 for the community to raise its share of the money.

“The donors just kind of want to see if the community has any skin in the game,” Benson said of the challenge to area residents.

Jensen said that while no formal plans have been made about what the new center would include, there have been talks about 4-H classrooms, an archery and BB gun area, another gym, a walking track and a potential preschool and 24-hour day care center.

The Britton-Hecla school board moved to advertise for bids to demolish and remove the Kidder Gym, with a completion date by July 15, according to the May 11 meeting minutes.

The existing gym is on the south side of the high school football field and track complex. While the school owns the property on which the Kidder Gym stands, Benson said the land would probably be transferred to the community if the new community center is built.

He said the center would be a multi-purpose facility and is something the community is very excited about.

Jensen said while the anonymous donors have already pledged a lot of money, a lot more needs to be raised to make sure the community center will be built. But, she thinks the community is ready to let Kidder Gym go for a new facility.

“They have this old Kidder Gym — it was moved in from Kidder — and it’s kind of just falling apart,” Jensen said. “But there’s a lot of nostalgia that goes along with that building, and that’s why it’s taken them so long to do something about it.”

Arranging how donations will be accepted is still in the works, said Tom Kraft, who works at NextGen, a construction business in Britton.

Kraft, who has also been involved in the community center’s planning process, said donations will likely be accepted by Glacial Lakes Area Development or the Britton Community Foundation.

To Britton resident Tom Farber, replacing the Kidder Gym is inevitable at this point.

“The building itself has been in disrepair and hasn’t been used for the last two or three years,” he said. “There was a delegation from the former Kidder School who wanted to see it preserved, and with a lot of things, it costs way more to fix it up. And you’ve still got an older building.”

Farber said plans to include a new day care within the new community center make sense.

“We are very short on day care, and there’s a movement now to establish a day care in the community and preschool in the day care. Day care in a community situation, if you have more than 20 kids in a day care, then you have to have a sprinkler system. And it’s expensive to retrofit a building with that,” Farber said.

He hopes the fact that a large donation has already been made will spur community members to support the project.

“The fact that there’s been benefactors saying they’ll raise this money has been a big impetus to spur this on,” Farber said. “It’s a great thing, and it’s always nice to see something being built that’s for the next 100 years or more.”

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