EagleHerald/Rick Gebhard
Kicking off for year two, during one popular REC center activity, Evelyn Kohn, 3, Town of Peshtigo, uses both feet during Sporties for Shorties on the center’s turf. The Center celebrates it first full year of operation Saturday. And there will be cake!
EagleHerald/Rick Gebhard

Kicking off for year two, during one popular REC center activity, Evelyn Kohn, 3, Town of Peshtigo, uses both feet during Sporties for Shorties on the center’s turf. The Center celebrates it first full year of operation Saturday. And there will be cake!

MARINETTE — Lacking the flicker of a vivid burn overtop a dripping candle, a celebration of a successful year one and the prospective year two will still promise a bright burn fueled by experience, persistence and, of course, community at this weekend’s REC Center Birthday. 

But first, the cake. And yes, there will be no candle, but the slicing and serving of birthday cake commences at 1 p.m. Saturday during day-long jamboree, celebrating the first full year of the City of Marinette Community REC Center’s operational programming.  

“We are celebrating community and the fact that we have been open one year,” said Marinette Director of Marketing & Tourism Melissa Ebsch. “It goes to show that we are doing different events and programming; and we are still going strong, adding new events and programming for 2020.  So we have a lot to celebrate.” 

Officials and staff invite area residents to visit the REC Center to enjoy free use of the facility and several special events to honor the building’s one-year birthday as a convergent hub of dynamic spirit, fun, curiosity, competition, outreach and memories. 

Looking back, the events, activities and community gatherings speak for themselves. For the last year, the REC Center provided residents a place to venture for a weekend family excursion, a head-to-head hockey tournament, a “coatless” stroll on a frigid winter around the climate controlled walking track and many other recreational opportunities. The facility also provided a place for community information, learning and vital meetings for municipal, environmental, educational and other outreach.

The celebration promises no different as area residents can swing in from the cold and snow for the warm welcome of music, hockey, free use of the facility and much more … including free cake. 

First, to really warm things up, an opportunity for boosting the heartbeat and heating up muscles begins at 9 a.m. with “Martial Arts on the Turf.” Then, at noon, watch “Hoops with Alex” as Alex Brendemihl adds a few dexterous moves that put a new take on the 1950s, ‘60s and ‘70s craze of gyrating hips that powered the rotation of hula-hoops across the nation. 

The music sounds off at 1 p.m. with the WildFlowers, a local band that thrums enough rhythm to accommodate everyone’s tastes. 

And don’t forget to supplement the rich tunes bounding over the eardrums with a free slice of marble-buttercream birthday sweetness when officials cut into the big sheets of birthday cake at 1. 

Follow up the music by taking in some galvanizing hockey play as tournaments cut across the REC Center’s ice arena all day long. 

Finally, passes to area activities, REC Center amenities and other recreational facilities like the Civic Center pool will be available for purchase throughout the day, at discounted rates.  

BEYOND RECREATION, ACCOUNTING THE SUCCESS

Reasons for celebration reach beyond the realization of REC Center’s memorable events like Colossal Fossil, Rumble at the Rec, Antique and Flea Market, Blues, Brews, BBQ and Hockey and countless others. 

After one year of operation, the achievements and challenges empower REC officials as they continue to ascend the steep learning curve, “testing the water,” so-to-speak, about what programming and functions the community and outside visitors seek in a facility the size and capacity of the center. 

For Executive Director of Recreation & Events Gavin Scray, part of the celebration emerges from that learning process. The knowledge gained in the last year serves as a catalyst for moving into year two.

“A year into operations now, we have found some things that work and some things that don’t work,” Scray said. “We are looking to grow and expand revenue in tandem with what we provided with budgetary numbers. We want to keep doing what we are doing, but we want to do it better.”

Evaluating the first year, other city officials agreed, commenting on both the successes, challenges and room for improvement as year two kicks off. 

“I think the REC Center performed well … We have, for sure, met our expectations for that first year,” said Marinette City Council President Dorothy Kowalski. “And we want to improve on that next year.”

During the most recent Marinette Finance & Insurance Committee meeting, Finance Director Jackie Miller presented a REC Center update, casting light on a summary of revenue and expenses of the over $17-million, state-of-the-art nexus of community spirit. She pointed out that, going all the way to 2016, accounting for all expenses and revenue since the project’s early beginnings, the results are nothing at which to balk. 

From the REC Center’s day of inception to today, expenses over revenue for the REC Center come to just $65,938. That amount represents approximately .003% of the total cost of the project. Miller pointed out that for a project encompassing the enormity of REC Center, such a small difference between revenue and expenditures represents a significant accomplishment for a city the size of Marinette, where projects of that scope rarely occur.  

“For an almost $18 million project I think that is pretty good,” she said. “How many projects does (Marinette) have that are that kind of magnitude? Sixth-five thousand might sound like a lot ,but compared to $18 million, .003% is nothing.”  

Kowalski agreed, pointing out that the programming and use of the facility that officials hoped to offer and retain, met expectations and also laid the foundation for year two. She explained that in the first year of operation, council members did not expect a to balance the facility’s accounting in fiscal terms.   

“We did not expect our revenues to break even with our expenses; but we had the programming and we had the groups that came in to use it,” she said. “(REC Center staff and officials) now have a better idea and a feel for what the community might want. And they have good ideas moving into the future. Now that everyone got their feet wet in the first year, I think we can accomplish that goal for next year.”