Parks and Rec committee plans new, over $20 million indoor facilities


Three facilities with indoor running or walking tracks and indoor basketball courts could be coming to Manhattan. After a 2014 survey conducted by the Parks and Recreation Steering Committee, four priorities of the community were found: additional indoor recreation facilities, improved playability of existing fields, improved availability and connection of trails and an indoor aquatics facility.

Bruce Snead, chair of the committee, emphasized the importance of the quality of life in a community during an open meeting with K-State journalism students on Feb. 14.

“Communities are where we have our quality of life,” Snead said. “The community provides the infrastructure and the support and the services that enable us to have work and play, and schools and arts and many other things.”

Snead said that after the survey, the committee decided to focus on the first three priorities and that the indoor aquatics facility had dropped off the radar because of the high costs associated with it. The steering committee is moving ahead with plans to propose three indoor neighborhood recreation facilities and improvements to CiCo Park fields.

The new facilities would be at Douglass Park, called the South East Neighborhood Recreation Center and at Anthony and Eisenhower middle schools. All three facilities will have indoor basketball courts and running tracks and will be open to the community for multiple uses.

“If you’re not K-State affiliated, you don’t get access to Ahearn,” Snead said. “You don’t get access to the Rec Center, so we found that to be a significant issue.”

Wyatt Thompson, senior park planner for Manhattan, said the indoor recreation facilities would be a benefit to the community.

“There is a need to offer space for planned activities to happen, as well as practice, and a lot of community benefit as far as health and wellness and quality of life,” Thompson said.

Estimated costs, timeline

The final results of the survey and potential options for these improvements will be presented to the City Commission at a work session in April. The commission will make a decision on whether or not they want to present it the community for a vote and what options they would present.

“There’s a great need for year-round facilities where people can get out of their house and be active,” Thompson said.

According to the Parks and Recreation Facility Feasibility Study, the estimated cost of construction of the indoor recreation facilities is $23.7-28.1 million. Improvements to CiCo Park, which include artificial turf for improved drainage of the baseball and softball fields and new tennis courts, is estimated at $8.5 million, according to the City of Manhattan Parks and Recreation website.

The steering committee’s proposed plan to pay for these improvements is extending a quarter-cent sales tax set to expire this year for 10 additional years, Snead said.

“Extending for 10 more years allows us to implement this strategic facilities plan incrementally over time,” Snead said.

The sales tax paid for the Sunset Zoo Education Center, the three city pools and the Flint Hills Discovery Center in about seven and a half years and the extension would raise approximately $25 million, Snead said.

“While you never want to hear that you’re going to be paying additional taxes for something, I think the benefit of this would outweigh the costs associated,” said Maria Leiker, a Manhattan resident. “I think something like this would benefit a lot of people.”

Community support

Snead said if the proposition is put before the community for a vote, it has good potential for support.

“When it comes to a vote, so many different things can happen between now and then, but you have to sell that package to the voters,” Snead said. “Here is a long-term strategic plan that will achieve this over time.”

Leiker, who lives a block from Douglass Park with her family, said she would take advantage of the South East Neighborhood Recreation Center.

“The cost for a gym membership is extremely expensive, and if you just want to play basketball or run indoors that’s a lot,” Leiker said. “I can see my own family utilizing these facilities and benefitting from them.”

Snead said he sees the importance in creating a place for members of the community to be active during all months of the year.

“Parks and recreation are an incredibly important infrastructure part of a community,” Snead said. “It’s the green space, it’s the trails, it’s the ball fields, it’s the zoo, the discovery center. It’s all of those things that create what a lot of people call a quality of life in a community.”