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Youth center event May 12

This Saturday, May 12, at a land dedication event at the site of the proposed Gorge Youth Center, new architect’s renderings will be unveiled, including what’s billed as a “cool new feature.”

The event goes from 11 to noon at the site, on 2505 W. 7th St., on the north side of West Seventh between Columbia Cinemas and the Fairfield Inn.

Project founder Joe Martin said the “cool” feature was a surprise that he first saw at a motel in Washington last year.

“The things that are there are going to make it very unique to the entire Gorge. It’s going to be a destination place,” he said.

He has been working on his dream of a youth center for 17 years. The project has had significant steps forward, including the donation of the 2.5-acre parcel the center would go on, as well as significant donations received a few years ago.

Some of the donated money was used to hire a company that has extensive experience working with churches, community centers and fitness centers to help develop a business plan, Martin said.

“This is a huge company we’re working with and they are incredibly excited about our project. They feel the building itself is one of the best buildings they’ve helped create,” he said.

Martin and a committee working with him have spent a year on the business plan and the elements that would go in the center. With a viable business plan in place, he said, the work of ongoing fundraising is beginning.

A general contractor has given an $18 million estimate for the completed project, which would essentially be built in two phases. The first phase would represent 75 percent of the project. It would include building the shell that would house the final 25 percent of the project.

He said the group is aiming for a top quality building so the business aspect will be successful, too.

The firm he’s working with feels that $18 million fundraising goal is “very feasible.” The goal is to get half of it through grants, foundations and in-kind services and the other half through donations, with at least half of those coming from outside the area.

When the group did a small fundraising effort a few years ago, well over half came from people outside the area who had a connection to The Dalles, he said.

He said the firm they’re working with was “really excited” to see the amount of community support for the project, said Martin, whose faith-based non-profit, ACTS International, is pursuing the project.

Martin founded the ACTS (Acclaiming Christ through Sports) youth ministry 30 years ago. He combines sports, mentoring and youth outreach in his program.

He said that ACTS will continue to do faith programs at a youth center, but “there will be lots of programs for children and adults that won’t have a faith aspect to them,” he said.

“So the idea is that this is going to be a community center that if people who aren’t interested in anything faith-wise, they will still love coming here and they won’t feel like they have to do some things in order to use the facility,” Martin said.

As envisioned, the youth center would have sports fields, music, art and robotics spaces, retail space, an auditorium and commons area.


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