Roof being installed on city’s Rock Chalk Park recreation center, tournament times filling up at the facility

I know the question that is on all of our minds today: Does a green stain on your tie count as St. Patrick’s Day spirit? Oh, that’s not the question. You want an update on the city’s 181,000-square-foot Rock Chalk Park recreation center. Well, fortunately, I have both stains and information.

Roofing work on the large building is underway, and leaders with the city’s parks and recreation department said they’ve been told by contractors that the building should be completely enclosed by the end of March. Look below to see some pictures city officials took at the site.

Once the building is enclosed, weather becomes much less of a factor in slowing down the project.

“The contractors hope to have gym floors go in during May,” said Mark Hecker, the assistant director of parks and recreation. “That is when you will know that we are nearing the end, when you start seeing the wood go into the building.”

As we have previously reported, a key date for the center is Sept. 2. That is when the city’s fall parks and recreation classes are set to begin, and the center is scheduled to be a host for many of them. The construction contract for the center calls for the facility to be completed by July 15, but weather delays have created concerns about the feasibility of that date.

Another date to circle on your calendar is April 27. That’s when the Parks and Recreation department’s next activities guide is released to the public. The guide will provide the first glimpse of all the new classes and leagues that the department plans to offer now that it has more space.

Parks and Recreation leaders aren’t providing any details yet, but they are saying the number of new offerings will be signifiant. For example, Roger Steinbrock, the department’s marketing supervisor, said he’s in the process of laying out the guide now. Historically, the department’s recreation program’s supervisor provided him about 17 pages of recreation class offerings. This year, she provided him 39 pages of offerings.

The number of adult and youth sports leagues also is expected to increase. The facility — which will have eight full-court gyms that also can be used as 16 cross-court gyms — was designed to host regional and national youth tournaments as well.

Interest on the tournament front has been strong, said Tim Laurent, recreation operations manager. He said from Jan,1, 2015 to mid-April of 2015, the vast majority of all the courts already have been reserved. A pair of Kansas City volleyball organizations have rented anywhere from 12 to 15 cross courts at the facility. A futsal organization also has rented seven of the eight full courts to host an indoor futsal tournament

The city is operating the center with a policy that at least one of the eight-full court gyms also will be left open for free-play by community members.

Thus far, only one youth basketball tournament has booked the facility, but Laurent said he thinks that mainly is because volleyball organizations have “been on the ball” about getting dates reserved more quickly.

“We definitely want to have basketball at the facility,” Laurent said.

Groups looking to book tournaments, though, should contact the department sooner rather than later, Laurent said. The department has decided it will allow groups to book dates a year in advance, and thus far the Kansas City volleyball organizations seem interested in having multiple events in Lawrence.

Laurent said the volleyball tournaments could best be described as regional tournaments that are expected to draw heavily form the Kansas City and Topeka areas, but also from as far away as Wichita and Manhattan. He said he has heard anecdotally that the tournaments often bring about 1,500 people — counting players and coaches — during the course of a weekend.

Laurent said the city has set rental rates for the facility to be in line with what other facilities are charging in the Kansas City area. Rates currently are $525 per day for a 12-hour rental of a single, full court. An eight-hour rental of a court is $350. If a group wants to rent only a cross court, the fee is roughly half those amounts.

The facility also will rent out gym space to teams who are just looking for some practice time. Those dates most likely will be during the weekdays, although there may be some weekends where a few courts are available. Rates for practice time are $30 an hour for a cross-court gym or $50 an hour for a full-court gym.

Laurent said department officials are very pleased with the level of interest the facility is receiving from tournament organizers, and that the facility’s location between Topeka and Kansas City is proving to be a major drawing card.

“At this point, we don’t even have a name for the facility, so it has been hard to really market it,” Laurent said. “So, we feel great about how much interest we’re already getting.”

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