VMC — at ground level

TRACY RESIDENT KEN WITT fills out a questionnaire at last week’s community meeting regarding a future community center. Audrey Koopman (background) is also on the committee that has been assembled to determine the City’s best route when it comes to finding a new home for seniors. Photo / Per Peterson

— continues to be discussed as an option for a new gathering place

By Per Peterson


That was one word used to describe the Veterans Memorial Center in downtown Tracy at a brainstorming meeting last week designed to come up with ideas on the best way Tracy can move forward with replacing the Multi-Purpose Center.

When the subject of needing a space for the entire community to use for fun and exercise, a member of the committee said the city already has such a facility.

“We actually have a place like that — the gym at the VMC, said Jeremy Trulock, who has worked with the Tracy-Milroy-Balaton high school wrestling program for more than 20 years. “You can rent it out for anything you want. I also agree that we need a space for a kitchen, for a gathering place where people can meet — somewhere for the seniors to call home, as well as a place where a bunch of kids can go and have a basketball game and sit down on a couch and order pizza and watch a movie. We’ve got a great facility already that people can rent out to run around in and play, do whatever you want.”

The VMC had been brought up by a school representative at a past city council meeting as a possible solution to the issue. It has been recommended that the space on the south side of the facility could be used as a gathering place, not just for seniors, but for people attending youth sporting events. The school is allowed to use the VMC for functions rent-free until 2028, an agreement based on the fact that over the years it has paid for a new floor, bleachers, acoustical panels, paint and basketball hoops.

Trulock said the VMC would be a good option for reasons other than it has a spacious gym. It’s located downtown and is already attached to the gym. Trulock added that when the wrestling club decided to build a new wrestling room on the high school campus, it relied heavily on donations from alumni, a hint that fundraising would go a long way to building a new facility for the residents.

“You’ve got different needs for different folks,” said Tracy City Administrator Erik Hansen, who conducted last week’s meeting. “You have seniors who say they want a place where they can socialize and talk to their friends and have a meal … and when you talk about kids getting together, that’s kind of the same thing, only with a different group.

Having a place for youth to go, Hansen said, should be something the City looks at when determining what to do to replace the MPC.

“It could be something you could use for the sporting events that are held there,” said Tracy businessman Matt Knakmuhs. “We don’t use it much right now — about three or four times a year — but if you have a better facility, you could do more.

Committee member Kris Tiegs, who works at Prairie View Healthcare Center in Tracy, said while it’s sad the seniors have to find a new place to gather, any new facility should be open and welcoming to all.

“I think we need to make sure we let people know that this is an opportunity to include everybody,” said Tiegs.

Committee member and city councilman George Landuyt expressed concern about how the gym floor at the VMC would hold up to added traffic.

“Are they gonna want kids coming in, running around with shoes and boots on?” he said. “What happens to that facility if it gets opened up like that? There’s been a lot of money spent there for what it’s used for, let’s not open the gates to the corral and let everybody in there — it’s something to keep in mind.”

See this week’s Headlight Herald for more on this article.