Archive for Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Editorial: Good start

Bookings more than a year out for events at the city’s new recreation center bode well for the facility’s financial future.

December 11, 2013

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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.

Comments

John Graham 1 year, 6 months ago

Remember the consultant hired by the city estimated annual operating budget to be well over $1M (I believe he estimated closer to $2M) based on the fact that rec center in Johnson County has approx $1M annual operating budget yet is about half the size of Rock Chalk. I believe the mayor at the time was the one who decided the annual operating budget should be about $1M. I never saw how or why they decided to ignore their own consultant. How they decided that Lawrence could operate its much larger rec center at about the same cost as Johnson County's smaller rec center was never explained.

The city is planning for a revenue shortfall of approx $350,000 per year based on the $1M budget. Obviously if operating expenses are higher then the shortfall grows.

John Graham 1 year, 6 months ago

The city also budgets starting in 2017 $100,000 per year for major maintenance on the building as part of parks and rec budget. This is not included in the $350,000 revenue shortfall in operating budget. This $100,000 per year grows to $150,000 by 2027.

So by the city's BEST estimates the center will be a drain of approx $500,000 per year on the tax payers. If the estimates are not met the drain increases. If the consultant was correct that the operating budget would be well over $1M the drain on city tax payers really grows. The center will be very busy the first few years when new as everyone will want to use and groups rent it. The real question is what happens after the first 3 or 4 years when the "new" wears off. Will groups still be clamoring to rent?

Also doesn't the overall value of this change? Remember when they said the center when built would have a value over $30M? It seemed like a great deal for the city. Spend no more than $25M to get something once finished that would be worth well more than $30M.That was when the estimated build cost of the rec center was closer to $20M. Now that the estimated build cost of the rec center is closer to $10M won't the "value"of the completed project be less than the estimated $30M? So now could it be possible that the estimated finished "value" of what the city gets could be less than the $22.5M they will have paid?

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