National Loon Center seeks $8.65 million in state funds
And another $2 million in federal money to break ground this fall
CROSSLAKE — As it continues to work toward a fall groundbreaking, the National Loon Center hopes to receive monetary help totaling $10.65 million in combined state and federal funds.
The loon center is seeking $8.65 million as part of the state bonding bill and $2 million in congressionally directed spending for site preparation, predesign, construction, furnishing and equipping the $17.5 million project at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Cross Lake Recreation Area.But nothing is guaranteed.
“While the state and federal processes play out, we are actively building relationships with private donors, foundations and corporations to secure funding support that will complement or at least partially replace those state and federal sources if they do not materialize,” Jon Mobeck, loon center executive director, said in an email response.
There is no question that the project could be delayed if we do not receive that essential support.
A state Senate Capital Investment Committee hearing is scheduled April 4 to potentially include the loon center in a capital investment bill, which is a positive sign, Mobeck wrote.
“There is no question that the project could be delayed if we do not receive that essential support,” he said.
The loon center did not receive $11.4 million in state and federal funding it sought last year. The state Legislature never agreed on a bonding bill, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture subcommittee that allocates federal congressionally directed spending did not select the loon center, despite support from Minnesota’s two U.S. senators.
The loon center still hopes to reach the total project budget of $17.5 million by the end of this year, which would allow construction to begin as early as this fall.
“We will know more precisely what is left to raise from private sources by late spring/early summer when we learn the result of the state and federal funding efforts,” Mobeck said.
Building and exhibit planning is ongoing in anticipation of construction starting, he said.
“Those planning processes will ensure that the project is completely shovel-ready by the fall,” Mobeck said.
Area state legislators support the loon center and have co-authored a bill to that effect.
Hopefully it (loon center) will get the help it needs. We'll see how things unfold.
“The National Loon Center will be a family-friendly amenity for our area that will bring tourism dollars and good local jobs to our local economy, all while promoting our natural resources,” state Rep. Ben Davis, R-Merrifield, said in an email. “This facility will help educate the public as it inspires and entertains guests to our area.”
Davis and fellow Rep. Josh Heintzeman, R-Nisswa, however, said funding through the bonding bill isn’t assured.
“Hopefully it (loon center) will get the help it needs,” Heintzeman said, noting no one knows yet whether the state will have a bonding bill.
“We’ll see how things unfold,” he said.
“It’s a challenge to predict how things will unfold at the Capitol this session,” Davis said. “As they say, the situation is fluid and we’ll see where things stand when the Legislature adjourns in late May.”
Projects such as this (loon center) are another way we can indirectly return money to the people.
While tax relief remains a top priority for Davis, he said the House majority has been less enthusiastic about using the state’s $17.5 billion surplus to significantly reduce the taxpayers’ burden.
“Projects such as this (loon center) are another way we can indirectly return money to the people,” he said.
Heintzeman said a suggestion is that the loon center seek support again through the Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources.
“I did suggest we take another crack at it,” he said, though March 31 is the last day to ask for that support.
The loon center previously received a $4 million state grant through the LCCMR, where Heintzeman serves and would like to advocate for the loon center.
Recently, the Crosslake City Council adopted a resolution supporting the $8.65 million in state bonding funds and $2 million in federal funding through congressionally directed spending requests to Minnesota’s representative and senators.
Audubon Minnesota previously contributed a letter of support.
The National Loon Center’s mission is to create a world-class public facility that educates and embraces the study and preservation of Minnesota’s state bird and the ongoing effort to conserve and preserve its natural habitat, the Whitefish Chain of Lakes.
The National Loon Center has had community support from the Brainerd Lakes Chamber of Commerce, Crosslake Ideal Lions Club, Crosslakers and Whitefish Area Property Owners Association, the city’s resolution said.
The loon center will support growth in tourism with a projected 200,000 annual visitors, it said.
The loon center has signed a lease with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers — a $2.6 million in-kind contribution — for a 25-year, no-fee lease; signed an agreement with the Brainerd/Crosslake Chamber of Commerce to operate and maintain the loon center; and signed an agreement for the city to be the center’s fiscal agent.
Local taxpayer dollars will not fund the loon center.
Nancy Vogt, editor, may be reached at 218-855-5877 or email@example.com. Follow her on Facebook and on Twitter at www.twitter.com/@PEJ_Nancy.