City of Lawrence proposes entry fees for recreation and community centers

photo by: Mike Yoder

Sports Pavilion Lawrence, 100 Rock Chalk Lane

Some Lawrence residents could soon have to pay as much as $48 per year to use the city’s recreation centers, which are currently free and provide access to cardio equipment, weights, basketball courts and other activities.

As part of its meeting Tuesday, the Lawrence City Commission will review a proposal to begin charging entry fees at the Prairie Park Nature Center and the city’s four recreation centers: the Community Building, East Lawrence Center, Holcom Recreation Center and Sports Pavilion Lawrence. Fees would vary depending on age, ranging from $5 for children for an annual entry card to $48 annually for some adults, according to a city staff memo to the commission. Daily passes and discount passes for low-income residents would also be available.

Lawrence Parks and Recreation Department Director Derek Rogers said that Lawrence was unusual in that it has never charged fees for use of its recreation and community centers. Regarding why an entry fee is being proposed, Rogers said that the department received its funding from property taxes, sales taxes and user fees and that the slower than anticipated sales tax growth was significantly affecting the department’s budget.

“Over time, expenses and personnel costs have continued to rise, so it’s a challenging budget year for 2020,” Rogers said. He said the proposed recreation center fees would be included in the city manager’s recommended budget, which will be presented to the commission for initial discussion on June 18.

Recreation facility card rates

Resident (Nonresident)

  18 and under 19 to 24 25 to 61 62 and older *
Annual pass $5 $24 ($30) $48 ($60) $24 ($30)
6 month pass $12 ($15) $24 ($30) $12 ($15)
3 month pass $10 ($12) $12 ($15) $10 ($12)
Monthly pass $8 ($10) $10 ($12) $8 ($10)
20 day punch $30 ($36) $40 ($48) $30 ($36)
Daily pass $2 ($3) $3 ($4) $2 ($3)
                * rate also applies to citizens with disabilities

The city estimates the entry fees could generate about $175,000 in new revenue, according to the memo. Rogers said that figure was a rough estimate because the department didn’t have reliable data on how many people used the recreation centers or know how many would sign up for the fee entry program.

Initiating the program will include equipment costs for card readers and entryway changes at the centers. The city estimates it will cost about $65,000 total for those changes. That includes $5,000 for card reader equipment for all centers and $60,000 to remodel the main entryway of Sports Pavilion Lawrence to accommodate card entry.

Under the fee proposal, fees would be reduced for low-income residents. Specifically, the memo states that the department will work with Lawrence nonprofit service agencies to provide reduced rates for low-income individuals and others in need to access the community and recreation centers. Rogers said the idea was for the program to be as socially equitable as possible.

Increasing parks and recreation user fees has been a discussion point at City Hall in recent years. One of the key finance issues in the department’s 10-year master plan, which was adopted in 2017, was the need to standardize the pricing process and increase user fees. As part of the master plan process, the city worked with a consultant to develop a methodology for setting fees based on how much the program or service benefits the community versus the individual.

Rogers said that while recreation and community centers do provide a community benefit, that unlike a city trail or park, the city must also pay to monitor and maintain the buildings. He said the method calls for such facilities to have a minimal user fee to support security and building maintenance. Rogers also said that in addition to allowing for entry fees and enforcement of the city’s existing nonresident entry fees, the card entry systems would allow the city to enforce restrictions when people are banned from recreation centers for fighting or other bad behavior.

If ultimately approved by the commission, the new fees would join other recreation fee changes following the adoption of the master plan. Last year, the commission voted to increase pool entrance fees by $2 and no longer provide free entry to 3- and 4-year-olds. Rogers said at the time that the department would continue to donate 5,000 free and discounted passes annually to social service organizations and other community groups.

As part of its meeting Tuesday, the commission will receive the Parks and Recreation Department report on the proposed changes. The commission will decide whether to approve the fee changes as part of its 2020 budget process this summer.

The City Commission will convene at 5:45 p.m. Tuesday at City Hall, 6 E. Sixth St.


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