Pitching in for quality of life

CBJ Editorial

A first pitch and opening ceremony were held last week for the first phase of Prospect Meadows, a $13.6 million recreational complex east of Marion that will bring about 60,000 baseball and softball competitors and their families to the Corridor annually.

Getting to that point required a public/private partnership, involving Linn County, the city of Marion, the state of Iowa and a slate of project benefactors and volunteers too long to list here. The fundraising committee raised $11.75 million to build Phase I, including $5.9 million in private donations and $5.85 million in public support.

It has also been a true act of will for General Manager Jack Roeder, fundraising chair Tim Strellner and other supporters, taking a longer path than expected. Yet the infrastructure is laid for the complex, and play can begin on the first eight ballfields and the wheelchair-accessible Miracle Field — a huge accomplishment, indeed.

Just over a month ago, a kickoff was held for the Awakening Connections capital campaign to fund Connect CR in Cedar Rapids. That committee has raised $4.6 million toward a $7 million goal to revitalize Cedar Lake as a recreational amenity north of downtown Cedar Rapids, and to develop an eye-catching pedestrian bridge over the Cedar River connecting the city’s NewBo District with Czech Village and the growing recreational amenities surrounding it on the riverfront and Mount Trashmore.

ConnectCR will enhance the Cedar Valley Nature Trail, which will become part of the coast-to-coast America Discovery Trail and Great American Rail-Trail. Just as Prospect Meadows will bring young ball players and their families to the Corridor, Connect CR is expected to expand the city’s “bicycle economy,” City Manager Jeff Pomeranz explained.

Besides their immediate benefits, we expect these projects to pay long-term dividends for area employers. During the CBJ’s ongoing reporting of the region’s workforce woes, one thing that has become clear is that offering good jobs, schools and safe streets isn’t enough to cut it when it comes to attracting the best and brightest of today’s workforce. In today’s low unemployment and increasingly digital economy, workers with the most sought-after skills can often live wherever they want and find jobs, or work remotely for companies elsewhere.

“As an employer and lifelong citizen, we need these kind of amenities to retain and attract employees to our community,” Connect CR Chair Mike McGrath told the CBJ. “We need to show a strong commitment to recreation and a healthy lifestyle.”

Big community players like MidAmerican Energy, Cargill, Collins Aerospace, ITC Midwest and the McGrath Family of Dealerships are among the largest donors to ConnectCR, standing alongside smaller contributors ranging from co-ops to HVAC contractors to retailers to credit unions.

With so many pressing social needs, it can be hard to focus philanthropy on capital projects like Prospect Meadows and ConnectCR, but we applaud those who have made these investments in our area. They will pay great dividends for our communities and future generations. •