Shopping local makes a difference for Two Rivers Activity Center
Voters approved a sales tax to pay for the costs to construct the facility.
JAMESTOWN – Shopping local helps support the construction of Two Rivers Activity Center, which opened in 2017.
Amy Walters, executive director of Jamestown Parks and Recreation which owns and operates the facility, said having the 1% sales tax to pay for the cost to build TRAC was critical.
“I firmly believe that if we would not had the option to utilize sales tax to construct TRAC, we still would not have that facility in our community,” she said.
Voters approved adding a 1% city sales tax to pay for the costs to construct TRAC in 2015. The bonds for the $28.6 million project, projected to be redeemed in 20 years (in 2035) are expected to be redeemed in 2029 or 2030, Walters said. Each quarter’s sales tax revenues have been more than originally projected, Walters said.
TRAC is a 136,681-square-foot multipurpose recreational facility that provides activities and programs for all ages, Walter said.
“Not only is it that type of facility but it’s a state-of-the-art facility that we’ve really designed to be a community recreation space,” she said. “So we’ve worked very hard to create a sense of community within the users of it, making it accessible to our community and surrounding areas and providing a service and opportunity that were not or are not being met in other ways.”
Walters said it’s important to note that there are “ripple effects” of shopping locally in addition to supporting local businesses.
“TRAC is usually one of the stops when local organizations and businesses have a potential candidate that they are interviewing for positions,” Walters said. “So whether it’s a physician coming to town to work at the hospital or a medical center in town or it’s a professor at University of Jamestown, whatever it might be, typically they land at the airport and they take those individuals out and they’re showing the community amenities.”
Those people are being shown why they should consider living in Jamestown, she said. Those reasons include the University of Jamestown, TRAC, the school system and the parks system.
“I think we’re in a really difficult time right now when it comes to staffing and recruitment of individuals and retention of individuals at our workplaces in our community,” Walters said. “There’s a shift in that. … it’s my thought that people no longer go out and find a job and then move to the community,” she said. “People now are looking for a community they want to live in and then they go find a job in that community. So in order for Jamestown to be competitive and continue to recruit and retain high-quality workers, we have to have these community amenities in place. A facility like TRAC is one of those amenities.
She said a number of things go into having a vibrant community, adding “... TRAC is an example of what sales tax has been able to bring to the community and how that impacts … recruitment, retention of workers and people that want to move and stay in Jamestown.”
TRAC was initially planned as a $40 million project but became a $28.6 million project after determining the funding structure, Walters said. But the sales tax to build the facility, which met its target goal of 4,000 members, has also helped attract other donors to continue adding amenities.
“It created that strong foundation and it helped us then to work to leverage additional private funding,” she said.
One example of that is the Meidinger Splash Park, which has been popular with residents and helped sustain TRAC membership over the summer, something that typically dips when people can get outside. Walters said in June 2022, the membership stayed above 4,000 for the first time during the summer months.
A new project with a goal to begin construction in spring of 2023 includes six pickleball courts, two sand volleyball courts and two bocce courts. That project is made possible through grants and private funding, Walters said.
TRAC currently has about 100 full- and part-time employees, Walter said. Of that number, 13 are full-time employees and the rest are part time. The number has dropped from 135 to 150 employees each month.
“Like everyone, we are still short staffed and challenged by that,” she said.
Walters was in on the ground floor when TRAC was just an idea, working others in the community on needs related to recreation space and how they could work together. The groups primarily included Jamestown Parks and Recreation, Jamestown Public Schools, James River Family YMCA, Jamestown Tennis Association and Jamestown Gymanastics Club, which later decided to go in a different direction. As Walters looks back now at that early process and serving as the TRAC facility manager for 5 ½ years before becoming executive director at Jamestown Parks and Recreation, she says it’s “very surreal.”
“... we were working on basically a dream and how do we make it happen and working with a group that really worked hard to answer some really difficult questions and put the pieces together,” she said.
She said she is honored that now there are groups from other communities who seek information on how TRAC came to be and the process to get there. She sees it as coming full circle, sharing challenges, missteps and what worked well.
She said it’s important to adapt to change and remain relevant, especially in the field.
“The one thing about the recreation and fitness industry though is it is a rapidly changing industry,” she said. “I think we’ve held true to the vision of that original planning group wanting to have a multiuse community recreation space and then the leadership team’s been very creative in what programming we offer and how we staff it and how we meet the needs of the community and the members.”