Thompson will seek 5th term as mayor of Nappanee

 

NAPPANEE — The proposal to create new soccer fields on the north side of Nappanee is just one phase of a chain reaction plan that city officials and local organizations hope will help a large part of the community.

Over the last few months the city has been working to expand its consolidated Tax Increment Financing district. But the planning for its expansion and what the city hopes to accomplish has been in the works for some time, Nappanee Mayor Larry Thompson said.

“I think we put something together that will give future leaders of Nappanee an income source,” he said.

Nappanee created three TIF districts over the course of 20 years and later consolidated them into one.

The land added to the consolidated TIF district will include the Northside Manor Apartments complex at 1200 N. Main St., some properties near the city airport, the wellfield and the old Central School building, which houses the Boys and Girls Club and Elder Haus Senior Center.

The Nappanee Redevelopment Commission, plan commission and city council have approved the expansion; the redevelopment commission plans a final vote during its next meeting, April 28.

Officials believe the expansion will help attract new businesses into town, which would increase jobs, and allow for the extension of water and sewer lines in some areas. But it will also trigger what several community leaders are calling a domino effect that will benefit the city in different ways.

It all starts with the construction of the soccer field complex over the wellfield, funded with the city’s TIF money.

DOMINO EFFECT

The city has spoken with representatives of the schools, the Boys and Girls Club, the Elder Haus Senior Center and the Family Christian Development Center about how they could benefit from the soccer fields plan.

Thompson said there are no signed agreements yet, but the plan is that once the soccer fields are built at the wellfield it will free up space from Nappanee Elementary.

The school could then offer some land for the Boys and Girls Club to build a new facility there, freeing up space at the senior center and allow a service provider organization like the Family Christian Development Center to move in.

This plan would benefit the Boys and Girls Club, which has close to 200 children walking through its doors each day. The space has become too small for the growing number of children. 

“How big is the Boys and Girls Club going to be? Probably as big as the bowl we put them in,” Thompson said.

The Boys and Girls Club moving out of the downtown building would free up space for the Elder Haus Senior Center. And Family Christian Development Center, housed at an old church at 151 S. Locke St., would move to the space used by the Boys and Girls Club, which is handicap accessible in accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The family center has a food pantry and offers other services, such as a medication assistance program, a clothing closet, and rent and utility assistance.

Terry Richmond, co-director at Elder Haus, said the family center moving into the same building as the senior center would be mutually beneficial. 

“Well, as you get older it gets harder to get on and off of that van,” Richmond said. “If we have those facilities here, they just walk from the lunch room right into the facilities, and get what they want.”

Thompson said that while he fully supports the plan, many of these changes would not be up to the city. The schools would have to have an agreement with the Boys and Girls Club, and the Family Christian Development Center would have to decide to move in with the senior center. 

“I think we’re all on board, but I don’t trigger their decisions,” he said. “I think they’re both getting their ducks in order for this type of move but I don’t chair that meeting. We’re not in control of the rest of the dominoes.”

THE SOCCER FIELDS

Planning for the soccer fields is in preliminary stages, Thompson said. The project would include building not only a main turf field but also lockers, stands, restrooms and concessions, he said.

The preliminary cost estimate for the fields is $2 million to $3 million. 

The soccer program was created in the 1970s by the Early Bird Kiwanis Club. When the club disbanded in 1996, the NorthWood Soccer Club was established as a nonprofit organization, according to its website.

The program serves 300 to 400 children from kindergarten through sixth grade, according to the website. But NorthWood Soccer Club will not be the only one to benefit. The public and Nappanee schools will use the fields as well. 

Phil Jenkins, president of the NWSC, said it was great to see the many ways the community will improve with the city’s comprehensive plan.

“This type of projects is typical of Nappanee, bringing people together to work together for everyone in the community,” he said.

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