FOREST CITY | Two Winnebago County utility companies announced plans last week to help with the financing of the Hanson Family Fine Arts Center.

Winnebago Cooperative Telecom Association in Lake Mills and Heartland Power Cooperative in Thompson were both awarded a $1 million, zero-interest loan from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Economic Development Loan Program.

The loans are to assist with local economic development efforts and will be passed through to the ultimate recipient, the city of Forest City, for the fine arts facility.

WCTA and Heartland will loan the proceeds to the city of Forest City at zero percent interest for 10 years.

The city formed a partnership with the Forest City School District and Waldorf University for the $10.3 million fine arts facility, a 29,743 square-foot complex being built adjacent to the Waldorf campus.

Forest City Mayor Barney Ruiter said the revenue the city receives through Tax Increment Financing will be enough to repay the loans.

This means no taxpayer money will be used for the fine arts facility, according to Ruiter.

"That's a big deal," he said. "It took a lot of paperwork to get there."

Everyone worked well together to make the fine arts facility a reality, according to Ruiter.

The complex "helps us sell our city," he said, noting it will attract families with school-age children and help boost enrollment at Waldorf.

WCTA and Heartland were assisted by officials with the Iowa Area Development Group, who wrote both loan applications on behalf of the utilities.

The fine arts facility will house a 600-seat theater with an orchestra pit and stage.

The complex also will feature an art gallery, a 200-seat banquet hall with an adjoining catering kitchen.

The building grounds will feature a 6,000 square-foot plaza, green space totaling 32,000 square feet, sidewalks and a parking lot.

While the land and building will be owned by the city, the fine arts facility will be maintained and operated by Waldorf University as a community hub for theater, art, public performances and public events.

The school district has agreed with the city on a long-term use and maintenance contract.

Each of the primary partners – the city, the school district and the university – has pledged $2 million to the project.

In addition, the John K. and Luise V. Hanson Foundation, Winnebago County and Iowa Great Places have committed a total of $4.4 million. Of that, the Hanson Foundation’s pledge includes $1.5 million earmarked for operations and maintenance and $500,000 for construction.

The fine arts facility is scheduled to be completed in the fall of 2018.

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