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June 19, 2014 10:00 PM

Watertown's 2020 Goal

Watertown, SD

Communities across the state do what they can to draw and retain people. A grassroots effort is driving that goal in Watertown. Last year the community laid out a broad vision for the year 2020.

"I think with any good community, any community that's constantly trying to raise that bar, it's important to be looking, not today and tomorrow but having that constant plan and making sure we're looking five years, 10 years, 15 years and continually planning," Megan Gruman, president of the Watertown Chamber of Commerce said.

The vision focuses on improving five areas: Education, employment, cultural and recreation options, safe and attractive neighborhoods, and appealing to all ages.

"There's a lot of things in this plan that involve some dollars, some just time and effort and community support and involvement," Robb Peterson said.

Peterson chairs the committee and says a couple thousand people in the community have taken part in some capacity. Volunteers have cleaned the city. Another program encourages people to keep their yards looking nice.

On a larger scale, the city will add within the next few years a new multipurpose facility that will house a recreation center to Watertown. Sales tax revenue will pay for the multi-million dollar project. There was enough opposition to the plan to bring it to a public vote but enough support that more than 70 percent of the voters who turned out approved it.

The new 115,000-square-foot facility will replace the city's current 59,000 square foot recreation center. It'll have more basketball courts, more swimming pool options and larger exercise areas. There will be other additions as well.

"We hope to see this draw people to come to Watertown, not just on weekends for sports tournaments and activities but also come to Watertown because we're aggressive," John Small said.

Peterson used to be an employer in Watertown working for Minnesota Rubber. He said he had two failed national employee searches. A facility like the new multi-purpose facility, he says, could have helped fill those positions.

"It's more about showing the town is progressive, it's moving forward. It's got some growth and some long-term potential," Peterson said.

"It'll just snowball and the more we can offer, the more people will stay or come to Watertown," Small said.

As the 2020 vision continues to take shape, Karen Witt with the convention and visitor's bureau hopes more people will at least visit the city.

"We have been a little short of facilities for attracting people. We have our beautiful event center which is conventions and meetings. That's busy a lot of the time, but we need more sporting events," Witt said.

Community leaders say they also want to improve the quality of life for those living in Watertown. The new recreation center was a high priority on a community survey released last year, but there are other items on the wish list too.

"Everything from a marina to some ballpark expansions, trail expansions, a second sheet of ice, there's a really long list but that's exciting," Gruman said.

Not everything everyone wants can fit into a growth plan that'll be complete by 2020. Those behind the vision at least want to be seen as a community that's trying.

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