Chances are, if you’re participating in a Sioux Center recreation program, the person who started it was Dave Ruter. Ruter, who has led as the city’s Recreation Director for 45 years and overseen the launch of many programs and facilities, has announced plans to retire in early 2021.
“Dave, you were the perfect person,” Sioux Center City Councilman Dale Den Herder said after Ruter shared his plans.
“Part of being a great town is having places for families and kids, and I think our rec department does that,” added Councilman Dale Vander Berg.
Ruter, a Kanawha, Iowa, native, started working for the City in December of 1975, when he was a senior at Dordt University – then Dordt College, where he played basketball and ran track. Prior to this, Sioux Center’s recreation was not led by a single individual and was limited mainly to summer baseball and softball for children. He began with the city in what was a 6-month training program but was quickly asked to stay on as Sioux Center’s full-time Recreation Director, even as he finished his Dordt degree.
Ruter began adding programs people were interested in, things he was interested in, and ideas people shared through a survey. That included indoor sports, slow-pitch softball for men and women, co-rec volleyball, sand volleyball, soccer and many more. In his 45 years, Ruter oversaw more than 1,400 recreation programs. He helped manage Sioux Center’s first indoor pool, launch the All Seasons Center with its indoor pool and ice arena, and open the award-winning Siouxnami Waterpark.
“My experience as a recreation director was tremendous for me,” Ruter said. “I enjoy the people, the athletics, and watching people participating have fun – I think that’s what it’s all about – having fun and learning through the experience. It’s been impactful for me as well. I couldn’t have wished for more for my life.”
Ruter plans to retire at the end of February 2021, anticipating time to enjoy home projects, raising dogs, working part-time and volunteering. He knows he will miss many aspects of what he does as Recreation Director, especially his co-workers.
“I’ve gotten to work with such a great team over the years. The people have been phenomenal and an influence in my life,” Ruter said. “I’ve worked with thousands of people over the years – this year alone we have 100 employees. They do so much – things I don’t even know how to do. It’s really a team effort, and I call myself their cheerleader.”