COEUR d'ALENE - The Boys and Girls Club of Kootenai County wants to build a new home in Coeur d'Alene.
And it thinks Person Field is the perfect place to do it.
Aiming to fulfill a growing need and expand its footprint countywide, club leaders want to partner with the city to land a facility at the roughly 7-acre park.
The neighborhood - with five schools in an approximately 2-mile radius - is a perfect fit for an after-school gathering place, they said. And a facility wouldn't infringe too much on the park's footprint.
"I think that the Person Field area, the 15th Street area, would be an amazing opportunity," said Ryan Davis, club director. "We look at this as a great opportunity."
Davis and Pat Whalen, club board director, pitched the idea to the City Council Tuesday night.
Locating a facility there could happen, the council said.
But before the city commits to anything, it wants to see what park users and 15th Street neighbors think of the idea. They said they would like to set up a meeting between junior tackle football, neighbors and city and club staff, and "not rush into anything," as Councilman Ron Edinger put it.
Earlier this year, the city purchased half of Person Field from the Coeur d'Alene School District along with Bryan Field for $750,000.
The city already owned half of Person Field, so it took over the entire park after the deal. The deal still upsets Edinger, who grumbled about it Tuesday because he believes the city gave away the property in good faith in the first place. But all during negotiations, both buyer and seller said they wanted to see the park remain a park.
That would remain the case, Davis and Whalen said.
A facility and its parking would account for approximately 1.7 acres of the park. Football fields wouldn't be disturbed and the bulk of it would remain green.
"We believe we can peacefully coexist there without moving anyone," Whalen said. "We think Person Field is the perfect location."
At least one neighbor already opposed the idea.
Bruce MacNeil said he would like to wait until after the November elections to even broach the subject. The city just wrapped up the sale agreement, which ruffled some feathers during the highly-publicized process. Taking up anything to do with Person Field right now doesn't even allow time for the controversial dust to settle, he said.
"The body is not even cold yet and we're talking about carving up Person Field," said MacNeil, who also spoke out during the sale negotiating process earlier this year. "Give this thing a chance to cool off."
Regardless of where, club leaders said it's time for them to expand.
They opened the $1.7 million Jordan Johnson Center in Post Falls late last year, and average 160 kids a day during the school year, and expect 200 during summer months.
The club operates an after-school club at Sorensen Magnet School in Coeur d'Alene, but is at capacity with the roughly 110 kids signed up, Davis said.
"The need is there," he said. "We feel very confident we could get 200 kids a day."
Five schools are within an approximately two mile radius of Person Field, including Borah and Bryan elementary schools. Those schools have student populations of 79 percent and 60 percent, respectively, on reduced lunch programs, according to Whalen. Membership fees run $40 a year, but the clubs work with families who can't afford it.
Multiple agencies partnered to construct the Post Falls facility, including the Post Falls School District that donated the land. The money was raised privately, Davis said, with dozens of donors. Coeur d'Alene's model would follow a similar donating format, while leasing the land from the city.
A neighborhood meeting, suggested by Councilman Dan Gookin, will be scheduled later.
* The City Council also approved a permit for a cycle pub to operate in Coeur d'Alene this summer. The bicycle tour will not have alcohol on board.