Forget stretching. Step No. 1 in working out at a proposed west Lawrence recreation center may be to reach for your wallet.
Members of the city’s Parks and Recreation Advisory Board on Tuesday brainstormed about ways to make a proposal to build a new northwest Lawrence recreation center more politically palatable to city leaders.
One idea that emerged is that users — at least all adult users — would have to buy a membership in order to use the facility’s gym, weight room, track and other amenities.
“My concept is that adults would pay for admittance to the facility, but that would be a different philosophy than we have at other recreation centers, and it would require a good City Commission discussion about the issue,” said City Manager David Corliss.
There is much about the recreation center project that will require a City Commission discussion — starting with whether commissioners think the city can afford the project at the moment.
Thus far, city commissioners have taken no action to move forward on the idea of building a new recreation center/fieldhouse/wellness center on city-owned land just north of the Walmart at Sixth Street and Wakarusa Drive. City parks and recreation leaders have been advocating for the project for years — citing a serious lack of indoor gym space for programming — and the foundation of Kansas University men’s basketball coach Bill Self has expressed an interest in partnering with the city.
The city’s Parks and Recreation Advisory Board has asked for a study session with city commissioners to discuss the future of the project and other parks and recreation funding issues. On Tuesday, the board was preparing for that study session, which is expected to occur in late October.
Board members were told that one of the first items the group likely will need to tackle is to decide what type of facility they want to ask commissioners to fund.
The project previously has been billed as everything from a traditional recreation center to a fieldhouse with multiple gyms to a wellness center that teaches people how to live healthier.
John Wilkins, an architect with Lawrence’s Gould Evans, presented several concept plans for a new center, but said it would be difficult to include all of the items originally envisioned for a price tag of $15 million or less, which is an amount city officials previously have said is the upper limit of what the city could fund without raising sales or property taxes.
Wilkins showed concept plans that estimated $20 million to $22 million the city could spend to build six oversized gyms, a gymnastics room, dance and aerobics classrooms, a weight and cardio workout area, a quarter-mile walking track on a mezzanine level, and special wellness area that could include classrooms, a demonstration kitchen and other features.
For about $17 million to $20 million, the city could build the same project except with five gyms instead of six. But Wilkins said that to get below $15 million, the city likely would need to choose whether to build a traditional recreation center, such as the East Lawrence Center or Holcom, or to concentrate on building a fieldhouse facility that would house multiple gyms and might make the city attractive to out-of-town basketball, volleyball and other tournaments.
For about $13 million to $15 million, Wilkins estimated the city could build a fieldhouse-style facility that would have five gyms, an upper-level cardio room and an indoor walking track on a mezzanine level. But the facility would not have an area for gymnastics, any wellness classrooms or dedicated space for dance and aerobics classes, although gym space could be used for those purposes if the space were available.
Parks and Recreation board members also were told that annual operational expenses for a new recreation center/fieldhouse could be about $500,000 per year and would involve hiring four new full-time employees and several part-time staff members.
Corliss said the city likely would have to look for ways to include that $500,000 into existing funding sources because he does not think it is likely the project would succeed if it required a sales or property tax increase.
As for the construction of the building, Corliss’ office previously has proposed funding the center with dollars that currently are being used to pay off the city’s indoor aquatic center, the Lawrence-Douglas County Health Department building and the Eagle Bend Golf Course. All those projects will be paid for by 2016.