The city's proposed Capital Improvement Plan calls for spending $23.8 million during the next five years for 15 projects for Lawrence Parks and Recreation.
When Jonathan Ewing plays roller hockey this summer, he'll get his stick caught in a fence, stumble into loose chain link and stake out only enough space for a cramped game of three-on-three.
He knows there's a better way.
"Having a big arena would help us do more things," said Jonathan, a 15-year-old who plays center for the Lawrence Lightning hockey team. "That would really help the sport out. There are a lot of kids who want to play, but you really can't run leagues or run clinics on the rinks we have now because they're too small. "
"It's the fastest growing sport. If we have a good arena, everyone would want to play."
Jonathan's desire -- for a full-size concrete "rink" with a smooth surface, tall boards and proper goals -- is getting an assist from city officials, who have suggested spending $150,000 in 2001 for a roller hockey arena.
The project is but one of 15 construction and land-acquisition projects envisioned for Lawrence Parks and Recreation through 2004, as outlined in the city's Capital Improvement Plan (CIP). Also envisioned: a second outdoor pool, another neighborhood recreation center and plenty of new open space for future parks in developing areas.
In all, the city could spend $23.8 million on such projects during the next five years, according to the CIP.
Lawrence city commissioners will consider approving the plan, which outlines projects that various city departments anticipate for construction during the next six years, later this month.
And while an approved plan doesn't ensure that the projects will be built -- those decisions come once a year, when commissioners approve the city's annual budget -- the document gives people an idea of what's possible or even probable in terms of major construction projects down the road.
Mayor Erv Hodges likes the idea of a roller hockey rink and many other projects on the list, but doesn't plan to sign off on anything until he's sure the city has the money.
"I'm a great supporter of alternative sports. We have a bunch of kids who need those kinds of outlets," Hodges said. "When you find a demand for something like that and a spot to put them, we should consider them -- just like the skate park" that opened four months ago in Centennial Park.
But recreational supply often runs up against financial demands, and that's where Hodges gets worried. A recent city report noted that sales-tax revenues -- the backbone for new parks and recreation projects -- slipped during the first three months of this year.
"I want to make doggone certain that we don't overextend ourselves," Hodges said. "Availability of funds is a key component of that schedule."
Open space, a pool and more
The list includes a variety of candidates for construction and acquisition.
A total of $1.5 million would be available for buying open space in developing areas, either to remain as "green space" or kept in storage for future park development.
Both concepts are priorities, Hodges said.
"If you wait too long it's gone or it's so expensive that you can't afford it," he said. "That would be very high on my priority list: to pick up park land or open space."
The plan also calls for spending $2 million in 2003 for a second outdoor swimming pool. Hodges thinks it might be appropriate for southeastern Lawrence, given the area's booming residential growth.
"They're a long way from the existing facilities," he said. "If that area continues to grow we ought to look that way."
Free State High School -- already in line to have a $9.5 million indoor aquatic center attached to its northern wall -- could get $475,000 in other improvements related to athletic fields. The CIP calls for $350,000 in 2002 for restrooms, concessions and stadium seating, in partnership with the Lawrence school district; another $125,000 would be used in 2003 to provide lighting for softball diamonds.
"Working with the school district is important for co-locating facilities," Commissioner Jim Henry said. "I think it'll save some money to begin with, and will make it accessible to people who are out there (at schools) for other reasons."
Proposed projects on tap
Also in the plan:
- Green Meadows Neighborhood Park development, $249,900 in 2000.
- Development of a neighborhood park on property behind Hallmark Cards Inc., $249,900 in 2001.
- City entryway improvements: $50,000 in each of three years: 2000, 2001 and 2002.
- Centennial Park improvements, $286,000 in 2000.
- Improvements at Prairie Park and Mary's Lake, $350,000 in 2000 and $150,000 in 2001.
- Development of a new neighborhood recreation center in western Lawrence: $5.1 million.
- Construction of a roller hockey arena: $150,000 in 2001.
- Expansion of the clubhouse at Eagle Bend Golf Course, or converting a cart-storage building for clubhouse use, $250,000 in 2001.
- Phase II development at Clinton Lake/YSI, $150,000 in 2000, $300,000 in 2002 and $1.6 million in 2003.
- Development of two new neighborhood community parks, $586,000 in each of two years: 2002 and 2003.
- Improvements at Broken Arrow Park: $250,000 in 2004.
-- Mark Fagan's phone message number is 832-7188. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.