The County Health Rankings & Roadmaps program is a partnership between the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute. In short, the program aims to build a culture of health, recognizing this looks different in rural areas than in urban areas.
County Health Rankings & Roadmaps research found higher obesity rates in rural areas than in urban and suburban areas; it oftentimes is easier to find opportunities to exercise in these areas than in vast rural areas. While there are a number of factors that can help decrease obesity rates, a key strategy is to provide a convenient place for physical activity.

Developing a sports academy would do just that. The academy should offer camps and clinics for youth along with regular classes for all ages. To support additional revenue generation, the academy should offer the space for rent for various community gatherings.

The academy should offer camps and clinics during the off season of the sport (for example, football and volleyball camps would be during the summer). While there already are a plethora of sports camps for youth to attend, the costs associated with these camps often hinder participation. A premiere volleyball camp costs over $300 to attend in addition to transportation – and opportunity – costs to and from the camp. Academy leaders should keep accessibility front of mind when personalizing the business plan found in Appendix H and should consider scholarships for those that otherwise cannot afford to attend.

In terms of partnerships, the academy should seek to work with area school districts as well as surrounding colleges, including Central, Coe, Ellsworth, Grinnell, Marshalltown Community College, Simpson, Waldorf, Wartburg, and William Penn, among others. The academy should look to share facilities with these entities if it does not have sufficient space to host its offerings. The academy also should look to the colleges for coaches and educators for its camps and clinics.

The academy should start with a lean staff of two full time employees. It will be imperative for these staffers to develop strong relationships with area coaches, educators, and community leaders.

To generate revenue beyond regular classes, camps, and clinics, the academy should consider a membership model. There should be individual and family offerings and different levels to provide access to a selection of amenities. For instance, a gold level member may be able to reserve a portion of the space online for a fee, while a platinum level member may be able to do the same with no additional fee beyond their membership.

The academy should be set up as a nonprofit, with a mission of increasing opportunities to healthy living. By operating as a nonprofit, the academy will be positioned to support access for all, regardless of socioeconomic status, and also will be well-positioned to secure funding for both capital as well as ongoing expenses. If the academy experiences great success, leaders should consider offering more scholarships, transportation assistance to the facility, or helping with equipment and other amenities in the schools themselves.

Ideally, the sports academy will be located on the western edge of Eldora along Highway 175. The preferred property currently is owned by the State of Iowa. State departments generally follow a four-step process after they determine that property is excess and no longer needed; details on this process can be found in Appendix I.

Action Steps


Jeff Fuller and placemaking steering committee

Work with attorney in pro-bono capacity to incorporate as 501(c)(3) nonprofit. Develop other necessary guiding documents.

Q2 2018

establish non-profit to oversee creative center


Personalize business plan in Appendix H. Look across the spectrum of sports and ages as well as at potential rental opportunities. Develop buildout concept, designing floorplan in collaboration with potential users and stakeholders. Determine fundraising campaign needs for capital and annual gap needs.

Q3 2018



Create funding roadmap. Secure contributions, including those for building.

Q4 2018



Complete buildout. Determine interior finishes as well as necessary equipment; consider phasing in different activities to smooth financing. Hire and train staff.

Q3 2019



Push marketing campaign throughout buildout. Create website and show construction progress in pictures and videos. Plan grand opening (budget for this).

Q4 2019