So far, constructing some form of athletic fields is the leading idea for what Pequot Lakes should do with 85 acres of land it owns south of the business park.

Four sessions have been held with various community groups regarding the land in the Heart of the Good Life Development, with three more sessions scheduled Monday, Oct. 7:

  • Pequot Lakes High School students: 2 p.m., PLHS cafeteria or Gathering Room.

  • Community/public: 5 p.m., Pequot Lakes High School cafeteria.

  • Area businesses and service groups: 7 p.m., Cole Memorial Building.

The land being talked about is between the Paul Bunyan Trail and the four-lane Highway 371, and the city is promoting public or private development of this area, including recreational, commercial and industrial development.

Listening sessions were held Tuesday, Oct. 1, for the city council and school board; Wednesday, Oct. 2, for high school coaches, Pequot Lakes Community Education and Youth Sports coaches and advisory council, Patriot Activities Club board and program coaches; and Thursday, Oct. 3, for city staff and committee members, with another session that night for the community/public.

Just under 20 people attended each session.

The council and school board identified new businesses buying the land as the top idea, followed closely by building an athletic complex.

The coaching group’s top pick was building Little League and intermediate baseball fields.

City staff and committee members identified baseball and softball fields as the No. 1 priority.

Community members talked about a multi sports event center as their top pick.

ICS Consulting led the sessions, which included asking each group a set of questions:

  • What are the great things the city and school district have to offer?

The most common answer was a strong, growing school district. Also cited were an abundance of activities for youth; a great community; lakes; and parks.

  • What are the challenges facing the city and school district?

Common answers were: lack of outdoor space to expand facilities; lack of a business tax base; lack of people willing to implement ideas or volunteer; seasonal ups and downs; businesses don’t support each other; keeping taxes in check; promoting businesses with bypass; not enough places to eat; growing class sizes; access to fast broadband; lack of diversity; lack of affordable housing; lack of industry or large employing companies; cooperation; community buy-in; community is divided; city has been bypassed.

  • What community enhancement ideas do you have for the city-owned land?

Answers included various ideas that centered around athletics, including an indoor and outdoor ice arena, indoor swimming pool/fitness center, outdoor athletic green space with lighting to incorporate football, soccer, etc.), baseball and softball fields, tennis courts, basketball courts, racquetball courts and pickleball courts; hotel; high tech businesses; and healthcare center.

Each person who attended then prioritized the resulting ideas by placing stickers next to their six favorites, which determined the front-running ideas.

All groups also were also asked: What is the best method for the city and school district to communicate the findings back to the community? The newspaper, Facebook, emails, mailings and public meetings were common answers.

The city council and school board members were asked: What are your expectations of this process. The other groups had the question: What advice do you have for the decision-makers regarding moving forward with this initiative?

Answers to the latter question included: don’t go too small; don’t go for the cheapest option; do it right the first time; have vision; listen to the community; look at it as a source of revenue and not an expense; make it multi-use and make sure it can be used day and night all year; don’t let special interest groups sway you; be transparent; keep the public informed; engage community groups to be in charge of a portion of the project; explore all funding sources; budget for maintenance and upkeep; ave residents of the city and/or school district vote on proposals;

ICS Consulting hopes to compile results from all seven listening sessions and present findings to the city council at its Tuesday, Nov. 5, meeting. A steering committee will be appointed and will meet up to five times regarding developing a plan, with tentative meeting dates of Thursdays, Nov. 7, 14 and 21, and Dec. 5 and 12, from 5-6:30 p.m. at the Cole Memorial Building.

The goal is to have the council approve a plan in December. Funding options will be considered after a plan is identified.