City recreation facility survey ( .PDF )
The idea of a new city-operated recreation center won a victory in recently released results of a Lawrence Parks and Recreation survey.
But its margin of victory was small enough that city leaders said they’ll have much to think about before settling on a new parks and recreation project to focus on for the future.
“The first thing we’ll have to do is cautiously watch the economy to see if we’ll have the revenues that will allow us to explore new parks and recreation options in the future,” City Manager David Corliss said. “I’m cautiously optimistic about that, but we still have more work to do.”
The city’s Parks and Recreation Department administered the survey during a series of three public meetings in October and November, and on the department’s Web site.
The project to receive the most “first choice” votes was the idea of a new recreation center for an area of town currently under served. The survey did not specifically mention where the recreation center would be located at, but previously city leaders have said they thought the northwest portion of town is the area most in need of a center. The recreation center received 248 first-choice votes.
Also receiving a large number of votes were:
• A new youth softball and baseball complex at the YSI complex at Clinton Lake. That project receive 192 top votes.
• A new amphitheater at Sesquicentennial Point at Clinton Lake. 189 top votes.
• A new trail in northwest Lawrence to connect Kansas Highway 10 to Kasold Drive, following a route along Baldwin Creek. 171 top votes.
• A new fieldhouse that would contain multiple gyms set up for league and tournament play. 165 top votes.
• A new trail in west Lawrence to connect Clinton Parkway, Bob Billings Parkway and Sixth Street. 162 top votes.
• A new trail in southeast Lawrence to connect a trail at 29th Street with Prairie Park.
• A new fitness/wellness center designed to promote and educate people about wellness. 133 top votes.
The survey did not give participants the option to choose their top overall choice. Instead, participants were allowed to choose a top choice in each of four categories: indoor facilities, outdoor facilities, trail development and park development.
The city created the survey because interest has been growing in undertaking a new parks and recreation project once bonds for the city’s Indoor Aquatic Center are paid off at the end of 2011. Ultimately, city commissioners will be the ones to decide what project to undertake.
At least one commissioner said he also wants to have a discussion about whether the sales tax money being used to pay off the Indoor Aquatic Center bonds should be used for something other than a parks and recreation project.
“Just because we have some of those bonds being paid down, we have to make sure that we’re using that money for the highest priority for the entire city, not just one department,” City Commissioner Mike Amyx said.
Parks and Recreation Director Ernie Shaw said his department is feeling pinched in several areas, but said indoor recreation space currently is the area that staff members are most concerned about.
“We definitely have pinch points both indoor and outdoor, but if you were asking staff, we would talk about the indoor first because those activities are 12 months out of the year,” Shaw said.
Corliss and Shaw previously have proposed studying the idea of building a new recreation center at the intersection of Wakarusa and Overland drives in northwest Lawrence.
Shaw said he still believes that site holds potential for not only a recreation center but also a fieldhouse and a wellness center component. But he said staff members will be open to other projects and sites as well.
He said a major factor in what direction the city may proceed likely will be opportunities for public-private partnerships. Several groups have been working on public-private partnership ideas for Lawrence ball fields, a wellness center and an amphitheater.
“If somebody steps forward and says they have ‘X’ amount of dollars that they would like to use in a partnership with the city, I’ve been around long enough to know that kind of drives the boat,” Shaw said.