Jacob Wetterling Community Center underway in St. Joseph, Minnesota

Big plans are underway for the city of St. Joseph, Minnesota, in an effort to remember Jacob Wetterling and to bring the community together in a brand new facility.

Wetterling was kidnapped and killed in 1989, and his abduction remained a mystery for 27 years.

Now, it's only fitting that a place honoring Wetterling will be built where he went to grade school.

The $12 million gathering place will be called the Jacob Wetterling Community Center.

“We are just really thrilled to be part of this opportunity for St. Joseph,” said Jerry Wetterling, Jacob’s father.

Phase one of the construction is the brand new youth activity center, which includes three gyms, a play area for children, a climbing wall and locker facilities.

“Jacob loved all sports – basketball, football, soccer and hockey,” Jerry Wetterling said. “But not just sports - Jacob loved the arts and he played trombone.”

In phase two, what is now Little Saints Academy could soon be a media center, a space for the historical society, a game room and maybe include library services.

“We want to create spaces that they can come to and feel safe and play with their friends...and something that's not a gymnasium,” said St. Joseph Mayor Rick Schultz.

But it's the little things that might have the biggest impact.

Jerry and Patty Wetterling always left a light on with the hope Jacob would come home. At the new center, a lantern will be lit 24/7 in his memory. 

There will also be columns that make an "11," Jacob's age when he disappeared, and there will be benches carrying quotes like “be honest and be kind,” just like Jacob was.

“We can think of no better way to honor him and all that he stood for,” Jerry Wetterling said. “Patty and I are so grateful, and we will do all we can to make this happen.”

St. Joseph is putting in $6 million, and the other $6 million will be brought in through fundraisers and donations. The hope is to break ground on phase one early next year,  with the new building complete by 2019.