Maybe what Lawrence’s parks and recreation system needs most is a new northwest Lawrence recreation center.
Or maybe it is a new multi-gymnasium fieldhouse at Clinton Lake.
Or perhaps it is a new youth baseball and softball complex.
The list could go on and on. But city commissioners on Tuesday are expected to direct staff members to start a formal process for determining what the department’s top facility needs are.
“We understand there are a lot of needs inside the parks and recreation department, but we also realize that the economic times we’re in will really dictate how much we can do,” said Commissioner Mike Amyx. “If we are going to do an expansion, we need to make sure it hits the highest of priorities.”
The city’s parks and recreation staff is seeking approval from commissioners to hold a series of public meetings to hear what area residents believe are some of the more important facility needs. Mark Hecker, assistant director of parks and recreation, said plans call for meetings in late October and early November. Staff members then would prepare a report by the end of the year outlining top priorities.
“What we do know is we’ve been put into a facilities crunch,” Hecker said.
The idea for a community-wide discussion came after City Manager David Corliss recommended the City Commission move ahead with planning for a new recreation center near Wakarusa and Overland drives. Commissioners ultimately did not fund that request, but instead said they wanted a clearer picture of what the public believed were the most pressing parks and recreation needs.
Parks and recreation staff members still believe a recreation center to serve West Lawrence neighborhoods is an important need. But the staff also has come up with several other projects that deserve study, Hecker said. They include:
• An indoor fieldhouse that would house four to six gyms that could be used for soccer, basketball and volleyball. Previously, parks and recreation leaders have said the land the city leases from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers below Clinton Dam could be a site for a fieldhouse, but other locations also may work, Hecker said.
• A “wellness center” that would be designed to appeal to young people who don’t often participate in traditional sports. The center would be a place to educate people about the importance of exercise, Hecker said.
• A new youth baseball and softball complex to meet the growing number of students participating in summer sports.
• Additional neighborhood parks. The department has not completed all the work it has planned for DeVictor Park in West Lawrence, and has not yet begun work on Peterson Park near the Hallmark plant in northern Lawrence or on Green Meadows Park near 31st Street and Kasold Drive.
But Hecker said the department wants to hear ideas for all types of projects.
“We want to have a couple of meetings to just sit and listen to what people are thinking,” Hecker said.
Dates for the meetings are expected to be set soon.
City commissioners meet at 6:35 p.m. Tuesday at City Hall, Sixth and Massachusetts streets.