Long Beach launches campaign to Save the Kroc Center

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Although The Salvation Army has clearly announced that the Kroc Center has reached the end, Long Beach officials are reaching out to revive the project and generate community support to prove that Long Beach is still a viable location for the center. (Visit www.SaveTheKroc.com.)

If the project is saved, The Salvation Army’s Long Beach Ray and Joan Kroc Corps Community Center, located in the 6th District of Long Beach, will offer more than 100 programs for toddlers, teens, parents, and senior citizens.

On May 4, 2010 the Western Territorial Headquarters of the Salvation Army issued a letter to Long Beach City leaders stating their decision to cancel the project after four years of efforts to bring the project to a reality.

The primary reason the decision has been made not to move is that in our four years of fund raising, we have not been able to raise $15 million in local support against our investment of $76 million. Without significant financial support from the community, we cannot build a center nor can we be confident that adequate funds can be raised to keep it open in the years to come.

The challenge of fund raising has become an even bigger concern in recent months because of the escalating cost of the site acquisition and development of the Hamilton Bowl property. In the beginning, the accepted proposal included an estimate for site acquisition and development of $5 million. That number has almost doubled and is now estimated to be $9.2 million, making it more than one quarter of the overall $38 million construction budget.

Aside from the increasing cost of preparing the Hamilton Bowl property, Salvation Army legal counsel advised the group that property comes with an “unacceptable financial risk.” Under the current plan, The Salvation Army would not have control over the flood plain, responsibility for maintaining the flood plain would remain with government agencies. However, the nonprofit would be liable for any catastrophic events that take place in relation to the flood plain.

Salvation Army leaders explain in their letter that this distribution of responsibility doesn’t meet the standard of site control that has been set for all of their Kroc Center facilities.

“We are all stunned by this announcement. It is very frustrating that the issues enunciated in the termination letter are technical in nature and do not rise to a level that would merit this dramatic of an action,” Mayor Bob Foster said. “Perhaps most perplexing, is that many of these issues are coming to the City’s attention for the first time through this letter, leaving years of progress, staff work, cooperative relationships and a considerable financial outlay from the Salvation Army in tatters.  After all the time, effort and energy that went in to this, professionalism would warrant a high-level conversation in an effort to remedy those concerns.”

Long Beach was aware of some of the issues facing the Kroc Center and was taking steps to facilitate solutions. In April, Long Beach Councilmembers Dee Andrews and Rae Gabelich requested a City-led RED TEAM for the Kroc Center project, similar to the C-17 Red Team created to keep the Boeing program in Long Beach.

The Kroc Center Red Team would assist in a variety of areas to: coordinate a public awareness campaign on the value of having the Kroc Center in our city; clear the way and expedite, post haste, all issues regarding the land, transfer and lease; help find public and private financial support to reach the threshold of the $15 million needed to trigger the funding of the Center.

Long Beach City leaders are in the process of working with the Salvation Army to determine next steps to save the project.

“I am a runner. When you are in a relay team, you run hard until you reach that last lap. The Kroc Center Red Team was created to sprint to the finish line. I would like the Salvation Army to come back to the relay team and lets go to the finish line together”, stated Councilman Dee Andrews.

Residents can get involved in the City’s efforts to retain the Kroc Center. Visit www.SaveTheKroc.com. Sign the letter of support on this page urging the Salvation Army to reconsider their decision and to support the effort to find solutions to move the project forward.

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