Council support Baldwin City Recreation Commission’s push for community center
The Baldwin City Council gave unanimous support Monday for a drive to fund and build a community center in the city.
Baldwin City Recreation Commission Board President Ginny Honomichl brought a request to the council for support the BCRC’s exploration of options to build and finance a community center. The BCRC board was ready to start a push for a community center and would take the same request for support to the Baldwin school board at its Nov. 16 meeting, she said.
“It’s our desire to start the process of building a community center as soon as possible to improve the quality of life of the whole community,” Honomichl said. “For this to happen, we need the cooperation of the council. We need the support of USD 348, and depending where it is located, the support of Baker (University).”
She and the BCRC board were willing to take the lead in pitching the community center to residents, Honomichl said.
“I’m willing to pound the streets for this and willing to work with your community development committee,” she said.
Beyond Monday’s initial vote of support, the BCRC would be asking more of the city, Honomichl said. By state statute, the BCRC cannot own land or a building, a reality that would require either the school district or city provide the land for a center and own the building. She also suggested the city would need to help finance the center through a sales tax and with such things as utility assistance.
Honomichl said she was confident a capital campaign would relieve taxpayers from having to foot the entire bill for the community center.
The BCRC didn’t conduct a survey before starting the push because such an effort would be redundant, Honomichl said. Six different surveys have found a community center one of the two top quality-of-life amenities residents wanted, she said.
There was widespread interest in a place to walk, swim or engage in activities during cooler weather, Honomichl said. Currently, Baldwin City residents have to travel to Lawrence, Ottawa or Gardner to swim, walk — or in her case — play pickleball indoors.
The BCRC board does, however, intend to take the pulse of the community on the issue. Honomichl said a series of town hall meetings were planned to gauge citizen support and opposition for a community center. Those meetings would probably start in January, she said.
As it’s early in the BCRC effort, Honomichl gave the council no cost estimates for a community center. However during a presentation to the council in March, BCRC director Steve Friend did share the costs of community centers with indoor water features built in several Kanas communities.
Those facilities ranged in size from an 18,000-square-foot, $1.1 million facility in Council Grove with gym, racquet ball court, fitness center and three-lane pool, to the about 45,000-square-foot facilities in Ottawa and Burlington with price tags of $4 million or more, Friend said.
In response to a question from Councilman Dave Simmons, Friend said there was demand for an indoor water facility to extend the municipal pool’s popular lap swimming and aquatic exercise classes.