Robert Perea, The Fernley Reporter
The Fernley of Cody Wagner’s youth looked much the same as the city does now, but was a much different place.
With a population a little more than a quarter of what it is today, the Fernley Wagner grew up in was a small town, with small town amenities and a tight-knit community. But while the explosive growth of the early 2000s brought more people, and more recent development has brought more business and industry, none of that growth has brought community and recreational facilities. The city still lacks any performance arts venue and has no facility outside of schools or parks capable of hosting large gatherings.
Seeing the population grow without corresponding community facilities, Wagner dedicated himself to eventually building a community center campus, and he’s serving as the chairman of the Fernley Community Foundation, which is working to do just that.
“We missed an opportunity there, but we’re trying not to miss the next opportunity,” Wagner said.
That’s why Wagner was so excited for the announcement of a $100,000 grant from the Polaris Distribution Center to the Fernley Community Foundation toward the community center project the Foundation is working on. The presentation was made during a Media Day event last Friday where Wagner and other members of the group working on the community center project to provide and update about that project and the Lyon County Senior Center on the proposed community center site.
Specifically, the donation will go toward the building of the Polaris Plaza, an outdoor space that will serve as a sort of front porch for the eventual community center campus.
Polaris manager Ben Mollman said he hopes the donation kicks off the fundraising process for the community center project. Wagner, meanwhile, used it as a call to action for everyone in the community to get involved and help with the project, even if that help isn’t financial.
“Much like an awkward pubescent teenager, Fernley has grown almost four times the size it was when I was a teenager, but without the coordination or community support to continue to make this a great place to live,” Wagner said. “People in Fernley have been talking about a project like this for a long time, and we think now is the time.”
The grant from Polaris represents the second biggest donation in Fernley’s history, behind the William Pennington Foundation’s $3 million for the Senior Center.
Financing a community center project like the one the foundation and the city are working toward will require many more donations and a huge fundraising effort. City Manager Daphne Hooper said the city has a conceptual design for a $30 million community center facility, although it would be built and paid for in phases, not all at once. She said the next step is engineering design to cut the project into phases.
The foundation has raised more than $150,000 through a brick fundraising program. They are selling bricks that will be placed somewhere on the campus – $250 individual 4×8 inch bricks and corporate 8×8 inch bricks for $500. Wagner said 56 bricks have been sold so far.
“I’m hoping all the residents will buy a brick,” mayor Roy Edgington said. “Wouldn’t that be wonderful, you could build a building with everybody’s name on it.”
Edgington got involved in the community center project when he was first elected to the City Council 10 years ago. At that time, the council, which is also the Fernley Convention & Tourism Authority, voted to begin putting a portion of its money, which comes mostly from room taxes, toward a community center project, and eventually paid $950,000 for the property that the Fernley Depot is on. The Senior Center built on the site was the first step in what the foundation and the city hopes becomes a place that serves every member of the community, from infants to senior citizens.
“When I look at this piece I see a parking lot, I see a building, I see young people, old people, everybody in between. I see laughter, learning, fun,” Edgington said. “I think we have a dream that will come true.”