City Manager Mark Hall discusses possible floor plans of a recreation center to be built with 1-cent sales tax funds – if the voters approve its construction with a special election on May 10. Discussions on a possible rec center will be continued at 7 p.m. every Monday evening through Feb. 28 at the Parks and Rec office at Blue Bonnett Park. L&T photo/Jessica Crawford
City will let voters choose whether they want indoor pool or not
By JESSICA CRAWFORD
• Leader & Times
Several factors were discussed regarding the prospective building of a $6.5 million recreation center with 1-cent sales tax funds. The main issue of the evening – to build or not to build a pool.
Hours of operation were agreed upon after City Manager Mark Hall announced during Monday evening’s feasibility meeting the general concensus of the group. If built, the recreation center would be open from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday and from 1:30 to 8:30 p.m. on Sunday.
The age requirement as to when a child is old enough to attend a prospective recreation center is still up in the air.
Equipment for exercise rooms included treadmills, bicycles, stair steppers, machine weights and free weights. However, a hot tub and sauna were eliminated from the equation.
Regarding possible classes to be provided, many options were suggested by the crowd of approximately 25 individuals. Everything from dance to computers to personal finance to babysitting classes were suggested. Hall told the crowd he was pleased with the various suggestions.
Membership costs were agreed upon to be $5 for the day, and monthly costs of $25 for an adult, $15 for youth, $40 for a couple, $60 for a family of four and $15 for each family member thereafter and $15 for seniors. For the most part, the crowd agreed the prices were fair and reasonable.
Hall estimates approximately 1,500 members for a recreation center. He added Garden City’s recreation center has 2,500. Dr. Julio Jiminez suggested dropping the price to possibly attract more members.
“If you drop the price down $5 on what we have now, will that have a good effect so we might get more coming in?” he asked. “Would that make a difference if you would drop that?”
Hall said though the possibility can be discussed in the future, right now, the community must be secure in the fact that a recreation center would pay for itself.
“Some people, their biggest concern is, ‘will this pay for itself?’” he said. “They will vote ‘yes’ if it will pay for itself – at no cost to the property owners.”
Next on the agenda, the discussion of what to put into the building. The majority of individuals at the meeting were there for one reason – to ascertain the possibility of a regulation size pool where swim team meets can be conducted year round.
Hall tried to explain the more people to have interests contained within the recreation center will vote in favor of it. He said a pool, would eliminate a soccer field and tennis courts, as well as decrease the size of other rooms inside the facility. He did say, however, if the vote passes, a pool could one day be a possibility.
“If you do not get a rec center, you will not get a pool,” Hall said. “With that, it does open up the futures and possibilities of a pool. It’s not ruling it out. With this facility, we have to think of how can you touch as many people in a facility as you possibly can? The more people that look at this facility and see something that they can take from it will vote for it. The smaller you make it – the more specialized you make it – you lose it. If this does not pass, you do not ever get a pool. You have to have a rec center first.”
Discussion went back and forth regarding swim teams having a year to senior citizens having a place to swim. For well over an hour, discussions went nowhere until Dr. Jiminez made a suggestion – put both possibilities on the ballot, thus let the community decide whether or not a pool is a priority.
Hall agreed to discuss with Seward County Clerk Stacia Long to ensure the ballot can read as such. Those in attendance were pleased with the outcome of the meeting knowing a pool was not out of reach for them, but voters would decide.
Hall did say the yearly operation costs of a pool in the facility would be approximately $80,000, Dr. Jiminez said numbers from the Seward County Community College/Area Technical School indicate a yearly maintenance cost of approximately $24,000.
Hall made clear to the group that the City of Liberal staff will not be constructing the $6.5 million facility if voters approve it. He said that was out of their field of expertise and the city will act only as a consultant in order to assure what the voters want is, in fact, built.