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City now has new opening date in mind for Rock Chalk Park recreation center; update on ice rink idea for downtown plaza


It appears I will have a couple of extra weeks to first find my hamstring and then stretch it out. A city official has confirmed to me that plans to open the city’s recreation center at Rock Chalk Park on Sept. 2 won’t be happening.

Ernie Shaw, the city’s director of parks and recreation, said city officials now believe that Sept. 2 will be the date that city officials can start moving into the 181,000 square foot center that will feature eight full-sized gyms, a walking track, fitness center, indoor turf field and other amenities. Shaw said he anticipates there could be a “soft opening” of the facility to the public in mid-September and that a grand opening would occur sometime in October.

City officials previously had circled Sept. 2 on their calendars, and had scheduled several fall parks and recreation classes to begin on that date at the center. Shaw said the department now plans to push the start date of those classes back by a few weeks. He said the department is in the process of notifying people who have enrolled in those classes of the new start dates.

Some of the classes that use gym space may be the among the last to get started. Shaw said wood flooring is still being installed in several of the gyms, and sanding and striping of the courts are just now beginning.

But Shaw said the delay isn’t expected to cause any major problems. He said department officials always knew with a project this size that a few delays could happen.

“Really, I don’t think the work could be going any better than it is right now,” Shaw said of the project that is being built by Lawrence-based Gene Fritzel Construction. “We just made a decision that we want to do this right, and we want to open the center right the first time.”

Shaw said city officials also are working to finalize hours for the new center. Shaw said there is discussion of opening the Rock Chalk center at 5:30 a.m., which would be about an hour earlier than most of the city’s other recreation centers open. Shaw said he expects the indoor walking/jogging track at the center will create more demand for early-morning users. Shaw said it is likely that the center also will be open until 10 p.m. or 10:30 p.m. at night to accommodate practices, league games and other such activities. But he said the city may be open to reserving space at the center even later, if there is a demand for it. Hours of operation are expected to be finalized in the next few weeks.

In other news and notes from around town:

• Shaw also confirmed that plans to add an artificial ice rink to the plaza area between the library and the city’s parking garage are still alive. The city recently accepted bids for the rink equipment, and Shaw said the prices came in around the $100,000 mark that city officials had been expecting. Those bids are expected to show up on a future Lawrence City Commission meeting for consideration.

As we’ve previously reported, the ice rink would be seasonal. Plans call for city crews to install the special ice-like material so that skating could begin around the Thanksgiving period and last through the Christmas holiday season. Shaw said he expects city commissioners to make a decision soon on whether to proceed with the ice rink idea, which officials hope will bring more visitors to downtown. Shaw said installation work likely would need to begin in October to have the rink ready for this upcoming holiday season.

As for other work in the plaza area, crews are continuing to pour some concrete and do some landscaping in the area. I’ve been told concrete work could wrap up by the end of this month. Sodding of the area likely would take place this fall. The portion of the plaza closest to Vermont Street will be a concrete area that could accommodate the ice rink, stages, or other such items for events in the plaza. The portion of the plaza that slopes downward toward Kentucky Street would be a grass area that could serve as a seating area or host other types of events.

• If you are interested in the idea of Ninth Street becoming an arts corridor in East Lawrence, circle Aug. 25 on your calendar. The city will be hosting an open house to discuss the concept of revamping Ninth Street east of Massachusetts Street. The meeting will be from 5 to 6 p.m. at the Lawrence Arts Center, 940 New Hampshire St. The meeting won’t include any big unveiling of a new design for the street because there isn’t a design to be unveiled. Instead, the meeting will give basic details of the concept and give information about how the city intends to select a consultant for the project. Once a design consultant is hired, then the city anticipates having multiple meetings to get community feedback on how the street should be designed. It will be an interesting project to watch. Not only will there be some significant works of art that will be planned for the corridor, but the design of the street likely will be significantly different than what is there today. That could include some medians, some protected bike lanes and other features.


Munchma Quchi 3 years, 8 months ago

Well... duh. Anyone who has looked at the current state of construction on the rec center would know that opening on September 2nd is just plain ridiculous. October is probably optimistic still, and that's if it doesn't flood and sink to China.

Clark Coan 3 years, 8 months ago

The 3 miles of cross-country trails are not done yet either. I was out there Sunday walking on the trails which wind back and forth through the woods and meadows. The surface is asphalt millings. I am still reserving my opinion on that type of surface. There's one very steep concrete section of the trail network which would be dangerous if wet.

Mike George 3 years, 8 months ago

If it were a legitimate construction manager, they would meet the schedule. Period. Watch the back-slapping in progress.....

Greg DiVilbiss 3 years, 8 months ago

That is just not true...weather, supply delays, city inspection delays any number of things can cause delays...Now create an incentive to finish early and they make more money might help but construction often takes longer then planned.

John Pultz 3 years, 8 months ago

This is the first time I've noticed that the rink at the library would have an "ice-like" material. I think that this is a really bad idea. The Topeka zoo has an ice-like material for its skating rink and it's very hard to skate there and not much fun. If we are going to bother with a rink, let's have the real thing.

Lee Saylor 3 years, 8 months ago

Artificial ice as an option has been discussed (documented in the LJW) since March when the idea was first brought up. I'm sorry that you didn't notice.

Richard Heckler 3 years, 8 months ago

Rushing a job = haste makes waste not a quality construction project..

Mark Rainey 3 years, 8 months ago

Like a cutting board. $300,000? Read a few reviews of this company's product for fun.

Brad Hightower 3 years, 8 months ago

First, fire Shaw. Second, who pays for the delays caused by this builder. Is there a clause in the contract for nonperformance. The city cannot start to recoup on their investment until it's finished. More time and money is wasted every minutes. Three, why did Shaw wait until today to make it public it's not going to open as promised. Four, what if it's never right, leaks, doesn't heat or cool efficiently, shoddy workmanship and poor quality materials soon start to fail, who repairs this stuff, city or builder, if it's the builder for how long is he on the hook.

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