The Coon Rapids City Council voted Tuesday to postpone a vote on whether to move ahead with its proposed multimillion-dollar community center.

The council said it wanted to look more closely at the design submitted by architects Perkins + Will and to continue to gauge public opinion on the 159,000-square-foot center.

"The next thing is to absorb it and meet as a council," Mayor Tim Howe said Wednesday. "We couldn't do all that and take testimony, too."

The council will meet in a workshop session within 30 days to go over the design; the date hasn't been set but will be advertised on the city website,

As presented Tuesday, the center would cost about $38 million, plus about $8.5 million for land acquisition and related expenses. From a tax standpoint, that would be about $125 a year for owners of a $220,000 home.

City officials hope the project will jump-start redevelopment along the ailing Coon Rapids Boulevard. It will include not only a replacement for the approximately 50-year-old Cook ice arena, but also three full-size gyms, an aquatics center, indoor playground, fitness center, senior and community gathering space, an outdoor green and skating space.

After a presentation by Perkins + Will, Council Member Joe Sidoti asked for an itemized budget, and fellow Council Member Scott Schulte requested a budget that reflects the cost of acquiring land for the 25-acre project.

Sidoti, whose yes vote in July has wavered as the project has moved forward, said he wants to see community involvement in the debate go beyond the activists on each side.

On Tuesday, residents filled the council chambers and adjoining workshop space, and the council heard about 90 minutes of testimony from 24 speakers. The majority voiced opposition to the project, citing fears about how a taxpayer-financed community center would affect those on a fixed income or those with no income because they are unemployed.

Resident Jeff Abraham said he is working two part-time jobs since he lost his full-time job two years ago. "Economic times are tough," he said. "Many people would enjoy it, but many of us don't want to pay for it, not right now."

Others said they had been drawn to Coon Rapids because of affordable housing and low taxes. They argued that increases in residential and commercial taxes would have a repellent effect.

"If you raise taxes, you're going to chase more people out of Coon Rapids," said Mandy Benz, adding that a tax increase could exacerbate the foreclosure crisis. "It's time to get back to basics, and it's time to move on."

Kris Olson, a leader in the opposition group, said he has 368 signatures from residents.

"A project like this should be the cherry on top of a community," he said. "It should be something the community can rally around. It shouldn't be something most of the people are opposed to."

Several residents did speak in favor of the project. Several long-time residents grieved for a Coon Rapids of the past, a city with a vibrant main street, a place they were proud to call home.

Bernice Olson noted that she was in her second home in the city "and if I croak, I've got my lot at Epiphany."

She drew a comparison to neighboring Blaine.

"I look at them as a vibrant community, and that's what I want Coon Rapids to look like. ... I'm on a fixed income, but I'm willing to pay what I need to get this community center and bring some life back into Coon Rapids."

Ted Schmolke, one of the 45-member community center task force, said it may be time to change the focus to selling the project.

"Now that we're done with the blueprints, maybe we'll have to work on the rah-rah stuff from here on in."

Maria Elena Baca • 612-673-4409