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Carlton brainstorms new uses for Four Seasons Complex

If you listened closely at Four Seasons Sports Complex on Monday night, you just might have heard a dream taking shape. A group of some 20 community members assembled in a public meeting to brainstorm and offer suggestions on how best to utilize ...

If you listened closely at Four Seasons Sports Complex on Monday night, you just might have heard a dream taking shape.

A group of some 20 community members assembled in a public meeting to brainstorm and offer suggestions on how best to utilize the popular and newly expanded complex moving forward into the future.

"Our dream from the start has been to see it used every day of the year," said Kirk Johnson of the Four Seasons board, who has helped spearhead many of the projects that have taken place at the complex in recent years.

The group of interested community members assembled in the complex's new second-floor meeting/community space overlooking the ice rink/arena area. With the finishing touches yet to be completed, the space nonetheless lent inspiration to those attending the session, as Johnson pointed out the newly completed archery range (funded through a DNR grant), elevator (thanks to a grant from the MS Society) and the location of a planned kitchen/food preparation area.

Johnson said the space is large enough to seat some 250 people, and funding is currently being sought for tables and chairs to accommodate that size crowd. He added that plans are afoot to install a game area in one corner of the community room that would house such recreational facilities as pool and foosball, video games and possibly a television lounge and computer area.

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Carlton Athletic Director Pat Day said while the Four Seasons Complex houses hockey and public skating programs for four to five months out of the winter, it sits empty for the lion's share of the rest of the year. The Four Seasons board would like to see multiple uses of the facility year round, now made especially feasible through the addition of the new community space.

"We have everything we need right here, right now," said Al Soukkala, who helped shaped the vision for the complex at the time of its inception. "All we have to do now is fill it."

Johnson said the ice sheet has now been taken out of the facility for the year and high school softball and baseball practices are slated to start up there later this week and will continue indoors until the fields are dry enough to move outside.

Johnson then opened the discussion to community members, asking what they would like to see happen at the complex and what tools they deem necessary to facilitate those uses.

Leola Rodd of the Carlton Kids Plus program of the Northland Foundation said she envisions the startup of some sort of after school program at the facility that would be a place for young people to "hang out and have things to do," such as basketball, volleyball and rollerblading, as well as various types of other programs and activities.

"What the Kids Plus program can contribute to this is not bricks and mortar, but access to granting," Rodd said.

She distributed a community survey that will provide the basis for any future grant applications, stating that one of the primary benefits might be to help fund a supervisory position at the complex.

Annette Kiehn, a community volunteer who handles the scheduling for the complex, cited some of the groups who have already expressed interest in using the facility, ranging all the way from wedding receptions and lacrosse practices to Girl Scout, 4-H and Master Gardener events and meetings.

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Other suggestions made by those in attendance included fund raisers, benefit dinners, Pinewood Derby activities, dog training classes, the Father-Daughter Dance, senior dances and activities, summer basketball leagues, weight room space, indoor golf nets and indoor youth soccer.

With the proposed extension of the bike trail going right across the property and the subsequent blacktopping of the area under the outdoor rink, Johnson said it might be a good opportunity to put up outdoor basketball hoops, swing sets and picnic tables. He added that area young people have raised some $3,000 for a skateboard park that might also be a nice fit for the outdoor area of the complex.

"The rooms at South Terrace [elementary school] are pretty much maxed out after school," commented Dean of Students B.J. Berg. "This would make a great alternative."

Carlton High School Principal Dave Battaglia suggested the district Web site might be a good place to put a link to the on-going schedule of events for the complex, and Johnson proposed that perhaps a brochure would be a good idea to let people know what's now available there.

Johnson said the board envisions only a nominal charge for nonprofit, 501C-3 groups wanting to use the facility.

"We're not out to make money," he said, "we're just out to pay the bills."

He did add, however, that the city is eligible for grant funding for things such as blacktopping, bleachers, etc., and any money made from private events or facility rentals could be channeled into future projects at the complex.

Day added there are open positions on the Four Seasons board of directors and encouraged interested community members to join in and help oversee the future use of the complex.

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"There are a lot of good ideas and people out there," summed up Johnson. "That's how things get done."

"With all of our organizations working and pulling together," added Day, "it should work out great."

Pine Journal Publisher/ reporter Wendy Johnson can be contacted at: wjohnson@pinejoournal.com .

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