Serving Northern St. Louis County, Minnesota

Ely Regional Complex efforts gets a big boost

Anonymous donor offers $5 million gift

Keith Vandervort
Posted 6/16/17

ELY - An anonymous donor with “a strong interest in the Ely area” has made a gift of $5 million to the Ely Area Community Foundation to be used for the Ely Regional Community Complex (ERCC) …

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Ely Regional Complex efforts gets a big boost

Anonymous donor offers $5 million gift

Posted

ELY - An anonymous donor with “a strong interest in the Ely area” has made a gift of $5 million to the Ely Area Community Foundation to be used for the Ely Regional Community Complex (ERCC) project.

Jeff Sundell, the founder of the seven-year feasibility study effort, made the announcement Thursday night at the ERCC board meeting.

The ERCC board of directors has identified the ISD 696 campus as their best choice for the location of a community complex that could include a swimming pool, gymnasium, running track and other recreational features. In addition to the school campus, the former Ely city garage and an area in the town of Morse behind the hospital were also identified as suitable properties. Estimates for the construction of such a facility top $10 million.

Funding for the project, as well as operating expenses, have not been a big part of the discussion as of yet, as community interest, a feasibility study and location options have been studied by a dedicated group of community volunteer.

“I think we have a pretty good start (on funding),” Sundell said to astonished board members. He said the gift is not contingent on anything. “This is not a matching gift. There are no strings attached. This is just a straight out gift. And nobody here will know who this donor is except me, so please don’t ask,” he said.

He described the offer: “Somebody came to my house some Sundays ago in the afternoon, knocked on my door, and I sat down and they told me this and I wept,” he said. “Having been at this for so long and seeing this happen really gave me this release.”

He asked board members to think about what the financial boost does for the ERCC effort. “This changes everything for this complex,” he said.

Sundell and other ERCC board members planned to meet with state legislatures next week to discuss state funding for the project in light of the donation. “When they hear that we raised this amount of money on our own, it will be so much easier for us to ask for help,” he said. “It is really difficult when you walk in with your hands open and you don’t have anything to show for it versus having something like this to show.”

Sundell explained that the money would be given to the Ely Area Community Foundation, which was set up about 15 years ago “just in case” somebody needed a fiscal agent. “The donor and her attorney have documentation and everything is in good order,” he said.

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