In 1987, the Salina Fieldhouse was nothing but a dream.
A feasibility study conducted by the city identified the facility as a significant need, but a lack of funding shelved the project.
Now, 30 years later, that dream has finally been realized, thanks to the determination and cooperation of both public and private community leaders. Private donations, which accounted for half of the project’s total funding, were held in a provisional fund at the Greater Salina Community Foundation. Provisional funds are designed to house funds for short-term charitable projects.
Since its official opening in July 2017, the Salina Fieldhouse has been bustling with activity.
“I’ve been a part of this for years, and now, to see it up and functioning, that’s been rewarding,” said recreation superintendent Travis Scheele, who directs the facility. “It’s been cool to see all the activities going.”
In addition to athletic events, the facility has opened its doors to a variety of community activities, including an indoor farmer’s market, alumni tours, the Mayor’s Halloween party, a Valentine’s father/daughter dance, the Golden Years Spring Festival and the Greater Salina Community Foundation’s Match Madness.
“We’ve done some cool things,” Scheele said. “I think this has complemented other facilities and events, and other things have complemented this, so it’s working hand in hand.”
Conversations with patrons have been positive, Scheele said.
“There’s a lot of good comments. They like that it’s an open and flexible space. Now that they’re inside and enjoying the space, they even like the colors,” he said, smiling. “I think we spent every dime wisely, to make it useful and functional.”
The impact of the Fieldhouse goes far beyond recreation, however.
“It is hard to describe the number of ways the Fieldhouse has positively impacted downtown development,” said Lee Legleiter, president of the Salina Downtown, Inc., board of directors. “The project was among the first catalyst projects to reinvigorate the downtown area. With about a year of operation already in the books, we are starting to accumulate actual data and evidence to promote future development based on the Fieldhouse and the other redevelopment projects.”
Legleiter described the Fieldhouse as “a doorstep to our community.” He said the facility’s location attracts both Salina residents and visitors to the downtown area, positioning it as a unique destination for shopping, dining and professional services.
“It is a great first impression on what Salina has to offer,” said Legleiter. “The best part is, we can build on that initial experience by showing them what’s next. Where do you go after your event has concluded at the Fieldhouse? What attractions does the community offer? We have a captive audience waiting to be told how they can build their experience in Salina, and that begins with a redeveloped downtown. It is a fantastic opportunity for both the downtown community and Salina.”