Bookings for the new city recreation center in far west Lawrence appear to be off to a strong start.
City officials hope to have the recreation center open by next July, but they’re being conservative in accepting reservations too close to that date. Nonetheless, the city already has received $70,000 in bookings from two volleyball associations from January 2015 to April 2015. Even better, two of the groups, who have booked a total of 10 weekends at the facility, are from the Kansas City area, which means the city will be attracting dollars from people outside of Lawrence who eat, shop and perhaps stay overnight in the city.
Lawrence taxpayers should hope this is the beginning of a trend for the new recreation center.
City officials have estimated the annual operating budget for the recreation center will be about $l million, but about $650,000 of that could be raised through rental fees, classes and other activities. Meeting that revenue goal would require the recreation center to host about 32 tournaments and outside events a year. That seemed like an optimistic figure at the time, especially considering the competition from existing facilities in the area. However, the fact that volleyball courts already have been booked more than a year ahead for 10 weekends in 2015, make that estimate look more realistic.
The center will have gyms that can be divided into 16 volleyball courts, and city officials also expect to attract a large number of basketball events to the new facility. Basketball groups already are contacting the city but are looking at dates next summer and fall and city officials are hesitant to guarantee the facility will be ready for competition that soon.
City officials never expected the new recreation center to break even financially, but the promise of about $3 million in indirect spending the center would attract to the community helped justify the expense. Still, it would be nice if income from outside tournaments would meet or exceed the estimates so that taxpayers don’t have to foot more of the bill for the center’s operating expenses.
There appears to be plenty of interest right now in the new center at Rock Chalk Park, which is a great sign. Hopefully, the people who are among the first to book the new gyms will be well-pleased with the center and its services and will become part of an ongoing base of financial support for the facility.