Lawrence city commissioners shouldn’t be so quick to dismiss the idea of starting to plan for a new recreation center in northwest Lawrence.
Only one of five commissioners had much of anything positive to say about City Manager David Corliss’ inclusion of $300,000 in next year’s budget to design a new recreation center on city land near Overland and Wakarusa drives. However, as Corliss pointed out, the city promised voters that revenue from a countywide 1-cent sales tax would fund recreation projects. The city has almost paid off the Indoor Aquatic Center and it needs to look to the future.
Commissioner Aron Cromwell made the valid point that the city needs to make sure it can afford to operate all of its current facilities before building more. Commissioner Mike Amyx made the less compelling argument that it was difficult to justify spending money to design the center when the city was eliminating its Human Relations Division. Finding ways to consolidate city personnel and save tax money doesn’t seem like a reason not to pursue a recreation improvement. Only Commissioner Lance Johnson saw the need even in tough times to “keep looking forward.”
Lawrence has done a lot of growing since the city built its last recreation center and that growth has left many residents living far away from any center that offers space for individual and organized sports and fitness activities. Recreation centers are located in the center, east and south part of town, but there is no center in the entire section of the city north of Clinton Parkway and west of downtown.
A facility is badly needed in this area. This may not be the year to start construction on a new recreation center, but that doesn’t mean the planning process shouldn’t begin.