Archive for Thursday, October 26, 2006

Consultant suggests community center

October 26, 2006

A consultant hired by the city, school district and recreation commission told those groups Tuesday night that a multi-use community center is feasible in Baldwin City.

Jeff King, of Ballard-King Associates, studied the demographics of Baldwin and a 10-mile radius around it for a year. His recommended facility would be over 43,000 square feet, which would cost roughly $8.6 million.

"I'm not an architect or an engineer, so I can't tell you what it will cost you," King said. "What I'm told is it would cost $200 a square foot. There are other soft costs, too."

King's suggested programs include indoor swimming, gymnasium, indoor walking track, weight lifting, an indoor playground, senior area and aerobic area, among others. Cost of those programs -- for salaries, utilities, etc. -- would be $941, 251 per year with revenues of $707,787, a shortfall of $200,000. But, he said it can work.

"It will take several years for you to reach saturation," he said. "I think you can see that this is something that can work in your community. It's a very favorable market. As Monte (Ezell, recreation commission director) said, this has been talked about for 10 years.

"From our standpoint, it certainly looks favorable," said King. "If you go into it knowing that it will cost a quarter million dollars to run, that can be figured into your funding mechanism."

At that point, King was asked what the next three steps are to push the project along.

"The first step would be further analysis of finances to make this happen," he said. "Second step would be to go back and revise the plan."

As for analysis and revising, King suggested that rather than scale the project down, to do it in phases.

"Phase it if you have to, but do the components that you do well," he said.

City Council President Amy Cleavinger asked several questions, including one regarding operating costs.

"Is the operating deficit unusual for a community or size?" said Cleavinger.

King said no. He added that it would all be up to what the community -- most notably the voters -- want in regards to such a facility.

"What's the community's appetite for something like this?" he said. "Not all feasibility studies result in buildings. We can't begin to say what's right for your community. There are a lot of communities that say 'we can't afford it.'"

When the groups started talking about a joint venture a year ago, one of the appeals was doing the financing through the school district, which would mean help from the state. School Board Member Scott Lauridsen indicated that probably isn't a possibility now while the district tries to figure out its future path, including the possibility of building an auditorium.

"I think the city needs to push this forward," Lauridsen said to Cleavinger. "Rather than waiting, I think the city needs to push forward on this. The district needs to look at it differently. Does it figure into our plans? We need to figure that out quickly."

King's demographic numbers showed participation levels for the varied activities that would be included. He also had those figures with today's population and down the road a few years. Ezell said it's the possibility of growth here and the immediate surrounding area that makes the plan feasible.

"We're going to look back 10 years down the road and say, 'when were we at 3,000 people?'" said Ezell. "As for the shortfall, by the time we build it, we will have more people and it will only be $100,000.

"I think Baldwin City is going to get bigger and bigger," he said.

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