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Date of Issue: December 28, 2006

Deadline approaches for Center bank loan

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Sky view of the construction progress at the Anna Maria Island Community Center. Islander Photo: Jack Elka

The Anna Maria Island Community Center has until Jan. 8 to raise the building funds needed to pay off its Northern Trust bank loan.

Northern Trust extended the Center a loan after the cost of construction for the new Center facility rose to $4.1 million, almost twice the original $2.5 million budget - and twice the amount of money raised and pledged for the project.

According to Center executive director Pierrette Kelly, Northern Trust provided the bridge financing to allow construction to begin while the Center raises the remaining funds. Kelly said the Center must come up with $500,000 in cash and $600,000 in pledges by January. Of that debt, she said, nearly $580,000 still needs to be raised.

"We’re hopeful that we will still meet our deadline," said Kelly. "Plans will continue to move forward."

Kelly said that the Center has applied for grants that are still outstanding and that it still needs a groundswell of support from the community.

Similar to a family on a tight holiday budget, Kelly said the Center is trying to do its best, even though she isn’t sure how they’ll make it happen.

"I do believe in miracles," Kelly said. "And I do believe we will raise the funds needed, it may just come a little late. I don’t think it will be an issue."

Kelly said construction will continue to move forward, and that so far the project is slightly ahead of schedule. "If we continue to move at this rate, we could be in our new facility by the summer," she said.

Kelly cautions that in addition to raising funds to repay the Northern Trust loan, there is still a capital campaign to raise the remaining $1.1 million cost of construction. Kelly said the Center is also seeking donations for items such as tiling for the floors and bathrooms.

For example, Kelly noted, Billy Rice, whom she said helped build the former Center building, has offered to plaster the walls of the new Center.

Plans for the building and ball field remain the same, with the facility’s space doubling thanks to the addition of a second-story.

Kelly said that sports activities will resume at the Center once construction is completed. However, some thought has been given to hosting soccer events at both the Center and the Holmes Beach city field.

"Our soccer program is our biggest sport and it continues to grow," she said. "This season we had 278 participants enrolled and the feedback regarding use of the larger area for play at Holmes Beach city hall has been positive. We’d love to explore the possibility of hosting soccer events at both locations."

For more information - and to contribute - call the Center at 778-1908.

All donations to the building fund from $1 and up made by Dec. 31 are being matched  - up to a total of $50,000 - by Chuck and Joey Lester of Holmes Beach, thanks to a community challenge sponsored by The Islander newspaper.