Allen Community College Recreation Center – Community Survey

Allen Community College is planning a new Recreation Center, which will include a 200 meter indoor track and a turf in-field. Some in the community would like to see the city or county partner with the college so that this facility could also include an indoor pool. Is this our chance for a community Recreation Center or should the other municipalities stay out of the plans?”

February 28, 2020 – The above question was asked on our Facebook page in hopes of getting the public’s opinion on a recreation center.   I am one that did not have strong feelings on this subject. I can see both sides of the issue, but what is most important to me is that when big decisions are on the table, an effort is made to hear from the people of our great community.  We are always going to hear from the cheerleaders and the strong critics, but the average person many times stays silent.  As someone that has been involved in big public decisions over the years, I have seen the roller coaster of emotion that can be fueled by conversations with a few people.  A survey is not a perfect tool, I’ve done many over the years and am yet to create one without wishing I would have asked a different question, or phrased a question differently.  The reality is, survey’s can be revealing, and although a small sample of the population, a much bigger sample than any of us can provide on our own.  Thanks to the 465 people in Allen County that were willing to take this survey, we had a good turn out.

First, let me explain in detail what is currently on the table.  Allen Community College is fulfilling a 5 year strategic plan which includes the goal of building a 200 Meter Indoor track with a turf infield.  As they have gotten closer and closer to the design phase of this project, many in the public have recommended that ACC partner with others in hopes that an indoor pool could be included, if not other recreation facilities as well.  ACC agreed to host a meeting with the public and to listen to listen to Allen County citizens.  Their message was that they are open to having partners, but the college knows their needs and budget well.  If the community wants more than they can provide on their own, others would need to come to the table to help.  ACC’s willingness to listen and entertain the public’s input is admirable, whether the scope of the project changes is out of their hands.  Several other entities have been identified as potential partners;  Allen County, City of Iola, St. Lukes, the National Guard, and private donations to name a few.  Who and how much potential is yet to be determined, but with ACC’s financial commitment, this is an opportunity that should not be taken lightly.  Whether the right opportunity includes a full sized pool, or even a much smaller pool for therapeutic needs is a possibility. Perhaps a racquetball court or other much smaller price tag facilities could be considered.

When you are involved with community decisions, listening to tax payers, and holding public meetings is difficult.  It slows the project down considerably and adds a lot of criticism to the project, even if just from a select few.  But, this is the healthiest way to make decisions that impact us all and the fairest way.  Thank you to the college for listening with an open mind, and thank you to everyone that participated in this survey. Whether your opinion agrees or disagrees with these results or your friends/neighbors opinions, embrace them as it represents the freedom and value we all share equally.  I, for one, love diversity and am grateful that we do not all think a like.

Click link below to see the complete results.

Ryan Sparks, President
Grow Iola

Click link for survey results.



Historic Iola Building Given New Life

It was March 8th, 2013 and Kansas Highway Patrol along with their highly trained SWAT team had just raided 1 N Jefferson looking for an alleged Murderer. Despite the flash bombs and army of agents, the murderer wasn’t found. But something that was evident is that this building was no longer serving the same productive purpose it once did and in many ways, was now bringing the wrong attention to the Iola Square.

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More than a Medallion


September 25, 2017 – In less than a week, hundreds of people will be wandering all over Allen County looking for the Farm City Days medallion.  What a great event that is challenging and encourages all of us to explore the great county we live in.  The grand prize of $1,000 will go to the person that out does the competition and finds the medallion first, but we are all winners with this interactive event.

Jason Schmidt knows as well as anyone the dedication it takes to find the medallion.  A year ago, he spent a countless number of hours searching and finally found it on the 10th day of the hunt.  Not only was this the last day in regulation, but the weather had taken a turn and Jason was accompanied on the trails with lightning, thunder, rain, and a lot of other dedicated (but muddy) participants.  Searching in this weather is not something he would say he is particularly proud of but the amazing thing to him is how many people were out there with him. By this time, he had searched every square inch of the trails on the south side of town, only to find it underneath the mat on a bridge that he had walked across at least 100 times.  Jason was good, the best in the county, but still found this hunt to be both entertaining and challenging.  This says a lot because hunting is not new to him, he’s an avid outdoorsman and has hunted most of his life. Ironically, he is also credited with finding the fugitive that was hiding out in Iola just a couple weeks ago.  Maybe just a coincidence, but you get my point.

2017 FCD Button

According to the Farm City Days committee president Aaron Franklin, this year’s hunt will be the best one yet.  There will be more people looking and the clues have been perfected in a way that will have people running all over the county and back again.  This will be a hunt for the record books and those that do not buy a Farm City Days button by October 2nd will regrettably miss out, because this year you must purchase a button by the events start date.

Thank you to the Farm City Days committee and everyone that participates in this event.  This is a competition that requires us to be physically active, focused on Allen County, and interested in good competition with our neighbors.  Buttons can be purchased for $2 a piece at the Iola Chamber of Commerce, Jump Start Travel Center, and TLC Garden Center.

Ryan Sparks, President
Grow Iola