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Croatian Park is favorable site for community center

Enclosed pavilion, more soccer fields part of future concept

Feb. 24, 2014

Franklin — Although in the very early stages of design, the Federation of Croatian Societies believes it has found a location for a community center: the 30-acre Croatian Park.

The park, located at 9100 S. 76th Street, was first purchased in 1956 for the Croatian community; the federation now uses the park to facilitate five soccer fields and to host the annual Croatian Fest.

The federation's president, John Braovac, proposed the concept for a community center to Common Council on Feb. 18.

Braovac's intent for the community center was to "better integrate (the federation) within the community and to become a better neighbor" for Franklin, he said.

The community center would be designed to fit between 350 to 500 people for special events, such as weddings and senior living programs, according to the federation's proposed concept plan.

"We're talking in concept of something that's potentially achievable," said Mayor Tom Taylor at the meeting. "If all the forces come together, we will no longer have to go out of the city of Franklin to host large events, the seniors (will not have) to be cramped into a small facility, and we can finally get what this community has wanted since I first became an alderman 15 years ago."

If built, the community center would be completed in phases, beginning with an open pavilion that would slowly be enclosed during the development.

"We're more of a seasonal (operation) from spring to fall because we don't have a structure that could accommodate anything during the winter," Braovac said. "... We're not only considering the Croatian community's needs, but we also want to help the needs of the Franklin community."

The facility could also be an asset during the Croatian Fest in case of inclement weather, Braovac said.

Proposed concept designs also include additional soccer fields, although the federation does not yet know how many, he added.

The federation will soon seek financial partnerships to begin the development, Braovac said.

"I greatly appreciate the revival and the newness that you want to put into the corridor of the city," said Mark Dandrea, alderman of District 1, which includes the Croatian Park. While the city may not be able to provide financing for the project, "we would be more than happy to help you ... brainstorm and encourage fundraising programs and community support."

With the possible development of a professional baseball stadium at The Rock Sports Complex, Braovac said he believed the community center and new soccer fields could make Franklin a destination for serious athletes.

"We're the oldest active soccer club in North America, so with our sustained success, Franklin can really be known as a sports Mecca destination in the Midwest with this project," he said.

Although Common Council did not take any action during the concept review, the aldermen did express support for the project.

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