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New conference, retreat center opening

What’s next

Community open house around Thanksgiving.

Begin raising funds to finish a swimming pool and the final six of Miracle Lodge’s 28 guest rooms.

If all goes well, a grand opening by Labor Day.

By Matt Russell

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Post-Bulletin, Rochester MN

STEWARTVILLE — Miracle Lodge, a sprawling log cabin-style conference and retreat center on the Root River, marks its opening this weekend with a private retreat for scrapbookers.

The 33,000-square-foot complex is available for families, organizations, churches and businesses of all kinds to rent, according to Bob Bardwell, executive director of the 200-acre Ironwood Springs Christian Ranch, where Miracle Lodge is located.

The center is open not just for conferences and retreats, but for weddings, reunions, and other special events, Bardwell said.

Miracle Lodge’s opening is a step forward for Ironwood Springs, which started in 1976 as a 40-acre campground and has since expanded into a destination for people with disabilities, with events including the annual National Wheelchair Sports Camp, which draws 50 to 75 participants each year. The $5 million lodge could double the participation.

Ironwood Springs, which has 45 campsites, could sleep about 150 people in its six cabins and two dormitories before Miracle Lodge was built. The lodge will sleep 100 to 125 people, Bardwell said, adding that all rooms are wheelchair accessible.

"If anything on this planet is a miracle, this is a miracle," Bardwell said while looking at Miracle Lodge, which has two meeting areas overlooking the Root River.

Lodge planning started in 2000. Dozens of miracles have made it possible, said Bardwell, who said the contributions of more than 1,000 people have made the project possible.

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Ninety companies have donated materials and labor totaling around $1.5 to $2 million, Bardwell said. Volunteers have also spent more than 28,000 hours working on the building, and Bardwell talks about a woman who volunteered to make quilts for every bed.

Bardwell hopes to hold a community open house at Miracle Lodge around Thanksgiving.

After the holidays, Bardwell said he plans to start raising money to finish a swimming pool and the final six of Miracle Lodge’s 28 guest rooms. If everything goes as planned, Bardwell said the lodge could be finished and a grand opening could be held by Labor Day.

For more information on Miracle Lodge, go to

Postbulletin.com/weblinks.

Ironwood Springs Christian Ranch

http://www.ironwoodsprings.com/ironwoodreunion.aspx

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