Litchfield Wellness/Recreation Center

A drawing by Oertel Architects offers a first look at how a wellness/recreation center could be laid out. This initial plan will be used to illustrate the city’s ideas when the House Bonding Committee visits next week.

The vision of a wellness/recreation center began to take shape for the Litchfield City Council Monday, even if in its most basic form.

The Council approved during a special meeting a schematic drawing and fact sheet that will be used to explain the city’s plans for a wellness center when the Minnesota House of Representatives Bonding Committee visits next week.

The basic plan, created by Oertel Architects in collaboration with City Administrator David Cziok and City Engineer Chuck DeWolf, features a walking track, multipurpose sports floor, pickleball/activity rooms, fitness area, meeting rooms and office.

The drawing also includes an aquatics feature, which is separate from the city’s effort and dependent on Litchfield Public Schools voters approving an $11 million bond for a swimming pool that will be part of a referendum on Nov. 5, but could be included as part of the total wellness center plan.

“We wanted to identify (a swimming pool) here on the map so everyone can understand that we are still working with the school,” Cziok said.

He explained that architects worked within the constraints of a $10 million budget, and therefore “every area we look at this thing is too small. We had to make a lot of tough decisions just to get the number of rooms on this drawing that we did. Is there (enough) room? That’s the next level of conversation we need to have. We’re really trying to focus on financing at this stage.

“But I hope the vision’s there,” Cziok added. “That’s what we’re looking for from you guys tonight.”

With the Bonding Committee visiting Litchfield Oct. 8, Cziok wanted the City Council to sign off on a basic plan that could be presented to legislators in hopes of gaining their support for including funding — $5 million or more — for the city’s wellness/recreation center in the state bonding bill.

The city also will seek approval from the state to hold a referendum on a local option sales tax that would provide the additional $5 million.

Along with the special City Council meeting Monday, Cziok organized a group of community leaders, including representatives of the city, business community, Litchfield School District, and past recreation center advocates, that met Tuesday to plot a strategy for the presentation to the bonding committee.

The presentation will include a fact sheet that breaks down programming and activities, facility amenities, and the financial details of what, for now, is known as Litchfield Area Wellness/Recreation Center. Also included in the fact sheet is a small map showing three possible sites for the center, though Cziok was quick to point out that the facility could end up somewhere else completely. The map was included simply to show how a facility of the specified size might fit on sites in the high school/middle school and civic arena area.

City Council members asked several questions about programming and structure expandability, but Cziok said those things were intentionally not addressed as the initial plan was created.

“As the architects were asking us questions, we had a lot of ‘I don’t know’ answers to their questions,” Cziok said. “They did a really good job of providing us space that we can fill later. We can figure out the usage as we go.”

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