If all goes as planned, Lawrence will be playing basketball — and much more — in a new mega recreation center by spring 2014.
“I’m anxious to see it come out of the ground,” Mayor Bob Schumm said.
Commissioners on Tuesday set the project on the path to construction. Commissioners on a 4-1 vote set a bid date of May 14 for the proposed $25 million recreation center, which is slated to be part of the larger Rock Chalk Park sports village just north of the northeast intersection of Sixth Street and the South Lawrence Trafficway. Architects are estimating the city could move into the new facility by June 2014.
About 20 members of the public showed up at an open house Tuesday afternoon to see the plans for the recreation center. Residents attending the event were mixed on the project.
“We’re glad that they are having more bids on the project than what they were planning on previously,” Joanne Dahlberg said. “I don’t know exactly what I think about it, but I understand it a lot better now.”
Commissioners on Tuesday agreed to the city’s standard bid process that will award the construction of the building to the lowest bidder. Previously, the city had considered a process that would have allowed Lawrence developer Thomas Fritzel — a private partner in the larger Rock Chalk Park sports village — to match any low bid for the recreation center.
On Tuesday, much of the attention focused on what will be inside the 181,000-square-foot building. The project includes:
• Eight full-court gyms that also can be used as 16 cross-court gyms or 16 volleyball courts
• A 200-foot by 85-foot indoor turf area that can accommodate one full-length soccer field or three cross-court fields
• An eighth-mile, four lane indoor walking/running track
• Cardio and weight room areas
• A 7,000-square-foot area that can be used as a future wellness center
Several details of the project created excitement from people who attended the open house. Jim Budde, a Lawrence resident, said he’ll use the indoor walking track frequently. Currently, he has to go to the Holcom Recreation Center at 7 a.m. each morning to walk in its gym before classes begin for the day.
Ernie Shaw, the leader of the city’s parks and recreation department, said his department is starting to work on ideas for new programs that can be held in the building, which will be the largest recreation center in the city. The building is designed to host large youth basketball and volleyball tournaments, but Shaw said city programs and leagues also would be added. He said potential uses for the building may include: indoor soccer and football on the large indoor turf area, an enlarged youth volleyball program, youth basketball seasons that extend beyond the normal six-game seasons offered by the department. Shaw said the city may develop a year-round basketball league that would be hosted at the center.
Commissioner Mike Amyx was the lone commissioner to vote against the bid letting. He has expressed concern about the size, scope and location of the proposed center.