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    Kroc Center tours start Saturday for new $31 million facility at Fairgrounds

    Timberly Moore - The Commercial Appeal -

    Although access to amenities like its indoor pool and water slide won't be available until January, the Salvation Army Kroc Center is offering the public sneak peeks of its $31 million facility at the Fairgrounds one day each month starting Saturday.

    Cherita Hopper, membership outreach manager, said Friday the building tours will give people an idea of the activities available. Other dates are Oct. 18 and Nov. 14, and those interested must sign up in advance.

    Stephen Carpenter, director of operations for the Kroc Center, loves showing off the 104,000-square foot building's environmentally-friendly attributes — the center earned a silver LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certificate.

    "On the roof of the building rain water will be collected and sent to underground cisterns that will irrigate the NCAA regulation soccer field," he said. He added: "We also recycled the concrete from the old Memphis City pool that was here to build our indoor pool."

    Other features available at the center include: NBA-quality basketball courts, a fitness facility, a recording studio with green-screen video booth, classrooms, an art gallery and party rooms. Carpenter said a three-story challenge center will allow groups of people to solve challenges together and see entertainment on the nine performance stages with retractable garage doors.

    Captain Jonathan Rich, area commander for the Salvation Army, said the center will cost $5 million a year. Rich said the center will bankroll itself with $30 per person or $50 per household monthly membership fees, endowment funds and revenue from rental of space.

    "The Kroc center isn't funded by people's charitable giving to the Salvation Army," Rich said. "Christmas is coming and the Red Kettle Campaign is one of the most important fund raisers, so we don't want people to be confused about what they are giving to when they donate."

    Donations support shelters for homeless women and children, rehabilitation programs, disaster relief and the Angel Tree program during the holidays.

    "This center is a proactive service that will hopefully keep people from need our reactive services," Carpenter said.

    Joan Kroc, the late widow of McDonald's founder Ray Kroc, left $1.5 billion in her will to the Salvation Army to build centers nationwide after the success of the first center in San Diego. Locally, $25 million was raised to match $25 million from the foundation.

    The center has a performing arts center and banquet hall, both seating 300. "We don't want to be competitive," Carpenter said. "We want to help build up the community. It could be that someone teaches piano lessons in Orange Mound, but doesn't have performance space for their students to have a recital, they can do it here."


    Tours of the Salvation Army Kroc Center are available. Here are the dates and times:

    Saturday: 10 a.m., 10:30 a.m. and 11 a.m.

    Oct. 18: 4:30 p.m., 5 p.m. and 5:30 p.m.

    Nov. 14: 11 a.m., 11:30 a.m., noon and 12:30 p.m.

    To arrange a tour, call 901-729-8008