Archive for Friday, December 18, 2009

Survey shows interest in new recreation center in Lawrence

The idea of a new city-operated recreation center won a victory in recently released results of a Lawrence Parks and Recreation survey.

December 18, 2009


Related document

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.


Rokchalk 8 years, 6 months ago

Why would anyone want to cram a rec center into what will soon be the busiest intersection in NW Lawrence? I guess if I owned retail space in the area, I might push for that. It would bring lots of people and my property would significantly increase in value. This is going to make Compton happy! Does he talk with Corliss? Seriously folks, use the YSI land and build some more ball fields.

workinghard 8 years, 6 months ago

They have the best streets, now they want a rec center too?

salad 8 years, 6 months ago

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cowboy 8 years, 6 months ago

I'd like to see the "parks" separated from recreation. give me a parks department that can develop serene outdoor greenspace fueled by community endowments. Our parks pretty much suck to state it plainly.

OutlawJHawk 8 years, 6 months ago

Can't the city get some of that federal pork to build a fieldhouse/rec center?

GardenMomma 8 years, 6 months ago

I still think they should work with the school district to revive the baseball parks at the elementary schools to utilize them for summer t-ball and youth baseball games. That would free up the fields at YSI for older youth baseball games.

It would be a win-win for both Parks and Rec and the school district.

There are three that I can think of - Schwegler, Hillcrest, and Broken Arrow. There's also Woody Park whose diamond is youth sized.

BigPrune 8 years, 6 months ago

I want to know who these 250-300 supervisors are in the parks & rec department that voted in this survey/participated in the meetings?

I was told there are more supervisors in the parks & rec dept than actual underlings. That might be a story in itself, especially since this is Lawrence and our City government wastes money like it's going out of style.

Bob_Keeshan 8 years, 6 months ago

So this town, which has pretty much the same number of residents as it did 10 years ago, needs a fourth recreation center but still only needs one library?

Funny. Maybe we should build a second city hall, too.

BMI 8 years, 6 months ago

I vote that those 248 people pay for it, all by themselves. Shouldn't something that is going to cost this much money be required to generate thousands of votes to be considered a needed project? After all, thousands of people will be expected to pay for it. This isn't a street, this isn't an ambulance service, this isn't a police work. This is pleasure and fitness, something they can do at home, outside, and at so many other places in town.

Nikki May 8 years, 6 months ago

I disagree, BMI. A good environment for the youth sports will draw people in. Right now, there are Lawrence teams playing anywhere BUT Lawrence in many sports. Softball and baseball are the main ones, but there are basketball teams and soccer teams that play all over, but not here. If we have the facilities, we would be able to offer tournaments or competitive leagues to those around here. We could be the destination for these teams. There are entry fees for all those, and some of them even charge parking fees. I know for a football tournament my son was in at Basehor, we paid to park both days. They do that for baseball too. Then when the games were over, we had to eat. If you have people in town, they stop places and spend money.

I don't think we should build a new rec center, when the ones we have are not very full except for during game times. They need to do an actual usage survey. Have the person who has to sit in a quite rec center actually write down how many come in and use the facility and why. Actually, if you are staying there, you have to sign in anyway. I always did when I would go to holcolm anyway.

As for the school fields, I agree with GardenMomma. I would love for those fields to be fixed up and freed up for younger games, but especially for practices. There's a backstop at Prairie Park (park, not school!) that could use help too. I know there were volunteers at one time who would work on it, but that got shot down.

As for who voted, I'm going to guess people that pay attention to this stuff. I got several invites to the forums, but couldn't make any of them (since my kids were in activities that I won't miss, ironically - and that pesky thing called work). However, I did go on the website and voice my desires. As an east side resident, I tried to not be biased based on that, but I will admit to biased based on children. I picked ball fields, and I believe I picked field house after that.

jayhawklawrence 8 years, 6 months ago

I am very skeptical about these surveys. They appear to be more of a sales tool than a scientific study.

I am worried about how things go down in this town sometimes, but I can understand why you have to do things on the sly when you have so many negative progress stoppers congregating in one community. I almost wish we had a Mayor Daley type character like they have had in Chicago to clear away all the barriers to progress.

That being said, I don't think we should be talking about building rec centers when people are having trouble buying groceries and there is so much upward pressure on taxes. That means an inevitable rise in property taxes and a competition destroying rise in sales taxes.

We haven't done anything to solve our unemployment problems yet and creating construction projects that are not needed is not going to solve anything at all.

Richard Heckler 8 years, 6 months ago

Why so much money for indoor recreation that will cost taxpayers a mint to maintain these climate controlled facilities. Energy costs are rising and will continue to do so.

Lawrence population is not growing so someone must believe this type of construction will help sell the many vacant homes in Lawrence,Kansas. This is known as a subsidy or tax abatement.

Let's keep soccer outdoors.

The one thing that is typically missing from these discussions is how much will anything cost? Why is this?

If parents want to push weights or their children to push weights why not set up something in the home? It will cost less than all the tax dollar development these people are wanting to put on our plates.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 8 years, 6 months ago

"I almost wish we had a Mayor Daley type character like they have had in Chicago to clear away all the barriers to progress."

Selling off the Chicago's assets piece by piece with very little transparency is hardly what could be called "progress."

lawrencechick 8 years, 6 months ago

I agree that the school fields are pitiful. Why did they even build them if they were going to let them be ruined. Between all the schools in this town, that would give you plenty of practice fields. Personally, I would love an indoor rec center. I can't afford a gym membership and the other are overcrowded. I do plenty of outdoor exercise, but on days like this it makes it hard.

Leslie Swearingen 8 years, 6 months ago

I would say considering the cuts in Medicare/Medicaid and education, not to mention Bert Nash, can we afford to spend public money on recreation? The items that were voted are are luxuries, and should come after health and education. Or spend the money on job training.

Nikki May 8 years, 6 months ago

The surveys were on the parks and rec website.

BigPrune 8 years, 6 months ago

If you look at the still shot above of all the empty exercise cycles, that may've been taken at Holcomb and is typical 99% of the time.

Merrill, this rec center is not being pushed to sell more homes. That is a ridiculous statement. I think the real culprit was the YMCA expressing an interest in Lawrence before the national economy tanked and since the City likes to compete against private enterprises - don't you think this is where the grand idea came from?

Richard Heckler 8 years, 6 months ago

It's a move to make Lawrence look more attractive to more and more people = more tax dollar hikes of all sorts.

IT's high dollar socialism for the real estate industry that's what it is. Just like expecting taxpayers to buy property for public schools. It's the developers that want to develop. If they want amenities to make their projects more attractive to the market let them provide space and dollars = the real free market approach.

Down with socialism. Let developers pay their own way!

BigPrune 8 years, 6 months ago

Developers typically sell their properties to schools or churches for pennies on the dollar. It's the type of "rolls royce" of facilities the school district decides to put in, and after going through a few of our more recent schools, they spare no expense in how the school is outfitted. For some reason, the school district is more concerned with keeping up with the Joneses or Blue Valley/Johnson County whichever the case may be and salaries for the administration, than paying the teachers a decent wage. They take the majority of our tax dollars and if they don't get enough, they sue for more.

jumpin_catfish 8 years, 6 months ago

OutlawJHawk said....Can't the city get some of that federal pork to build a fieldhouse/rec center?

What The Fudge! Exactly what's wrong on all levels in this country. Gimme Gimme Gimme!

WhiteDog 8 years, 6 months ago

Wasn't there just some big kerfluffle about closing Prairie Park Nature Center, or charging for the tots wading pool, or raising the already-way-too-high-for-a-family-of-five-to-go prices at the swimming pools?

I have "interest" in having a BMW. Doesn't help me pay for the old Buick, though.

Richard Heckler 8 years, 6 months ago

USD 497 just spent $22,763.16 an acre for land... is that pennies on the dollar?

Builders need to set aside land for schools,fire departments,rec centers and parks. Why? Because they are the ones creating the needs. Taxpayers subsidizing developers is high dollar socialism = wreckanomics.

Richard Heckler 8 years, 6 months ago

"Wasn't there just some big kerfluffle about closing Prairie Park Nature Center, or charging for the tots wading pool, or raising the already-way-too-high-for-a-family-of-five-to-go prices at the swimming pools"

Yes the water,sewer and trash fees as well.

The greater majority of Lawrence do not use these centers. Especially for exercise. What gets used most for exercise are streets,trails and sidewalks. People walk and jog on streets and sidewalks year round. People bike on sidewalks and streets year round. People walk,jog and bike on hike and bike trails year round. All of this is taking place on the levy,Wakarusa,east 13th,Clinton Parkway/23rd,east and west 6th street and throughout the NW neighborhoods.

By and large this is the best exercise for humans. Not only does it strengthen the muscles and bones it helps prevent osteoporosis. Fresh air oxygen into the body is primo. Indoor facilities can be a great source for the flu or other germs.

Maddy Griffin 8 years, 6 months ago

This is not what this city needs in this economy.Especially in an area of town where most can afford gym memberships.

BigPrune 8 years, 6 months ago

merrill, when a typical housing lot goes for $60,000 per lot, and say you can get 3 lots on an acre ($60,000 X 3 = $180,000), and the school district pays $22,763.16 an acre that does indeed calculate to pennies on the dollar.

$180,000.00 / 43,560 sq. ft. = $4.13 per sq. ft (3-houses) $ 22,763.16 / 43,560 sq. ft = $0.52 per sq. ft. (school)

Now, let's say only two lots will fit on an acre: $120,000.00 / 43,560 sq. ft. = $2.75 per sq. ft. (2-houses) $ 22,763.16 / 43,560 sq. ft. = $0.52 per sq. ft. (school)

43,560 sq. ft. = 1 acre

I rest my case.

Richard Heckler 8 years, 6 months ago

USD 497 is not building houses. The developers are creating the need for public servcies. $22,000 an acre for farmland is no bargain to USD 497 taxpayers.

Builders need to set aside land for schools,fire departments,rec centers and parks. Why? Because they are the ones creating the needs. Taxpayers subsidizing developers is high dollar socialism = wreckanomics.

BigPrune 8 years, 6 months ago

I've read your anti-growth mantra for years now, but your argument doesn't wash and needs to be questioned. Just look at the state of our local economy. No growth is the root cause of our local problems which were occuring before the national economy went down the tubes. This is why Lawrence doesn't have any decent paying jobs. Why would a company want to waste the time screwing with Lawrence when they can go somewhere else that welcomes them with open arms?

The school district gets a bargain on the land, then they build a Taj Mahal school with all of the highest dollar amenities available because money is no object to them (big flat screen tv's in every corridor? come on. Look at the Freestate Aquatic Center - look at the doors/windows that separate the kiddie pool from the Olympic sized pool - the most expensive institutional doors money can buy. Then there is the signage lettering within the corridors - laser cut aluminum because less expensive plastic injection molded lettering just won't do). They raise our taxes and if that is stopped, they sue and win.

Kelly Anderson 8 years, 6 months ago

I wish they would finish existing projects first, like Peterson Park. That has been "in the works" since we bought our house by there in 2000.

Richard Heckler 8 years, 6 months ago

Lawrence voters voted in the one cent sales tax that could be used for other pressing matters. It is time to allow voters another opportunity to vote on how they want it spent.

It is the leadership of our local goverment over the past 25 years who have produced no economic growth because it is they who voted and promoted the bedroom community and inflated market values.

It is the leadership of our local goverment over the past 25 years who produced the "boom town economy" that which always crashes like the oil boom town economies did and some never recovered.

It is the leadership of our local goverment over the past 25 years who refused to use and variety of economic impact tools to measure how their decisions would impact Lawrence and taxpayers thus producing economic displacement such that Lawrence is experiencing.

It is the leadership of our local goverment over the past 25 years who have refused to use tools to measure exactly what is paying back Lawrence or what is not paying back Lawrence. One tool is a Cost of Community Services Study. Lawrence taxpayers deserve to know.

Like the T taxpayers deserve an opportunity to vote on all large tax dollar expenditures. Taxpayers consistently are ignored. Taxpayers need an opportunity to vote on a ballot in November or April. After all that one cent sales tax belongs to we the voting taxpayers not to city hall politicians.

Richard Heckler 8 years, 6 months ago

Should the city spend $20 million or more on the PLAY project? ========================================= School Priorities and Spending( sports projects) ========================================= What kind of new recreation facility do you want for Lawrence? ========================================== Should the city build a recreation center in west Lawrence? ===========================================

GardenMomma 8 years, 6 months ago

Yes, it's so aggravating to see more comments on a story you're following and click to it to see what else someone has to say only to find that it's yet ANOTHER lengthy posting of Merrill's.

BTW, I see you've cited two LJWorld polls in your last post Merrill. How scientific do you really think those are? One person can vote multiple times and very easily skew the results.

denak 8 years, 6 months ago

Wow, the city wants to invest in WEST Lawrence, what a shocker.

Seriously, city hall and USD 497 should just stop playing games and just annex East Lawrence, then we, who live over here, don't have to continously see our kids getting shafted.

I guess since we are "poor," it doesn't really matter.


Tom McCune 8 years, 6 months ago

Breaking news....

Survey shows that a majority of Lawrencians would support free housing, a Mercedes in every garage, and unmetered beer taps at every intersection along Massachusetts Street. There's no money to pay for that stuff either....

AnnaUndercover 8 years, 5 months ago

@Newell_Post Sounds great to me. I'm cool without the Mercedes, though.

If I had the cash, I'd underwrite an exact copy of the Matt Ross Center for Lawrence. I've lived in some pretty amazing places and seen some first-rate gyms, but never did a single one come close to the MRCC.

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