Manhattan Commission tables Douglas Recreation Center design vote

The planned Douglas Recreation Center’s design will be approved at a Manhattan City Commission meeting. Commissioners unanimously voted to table the decision on the design at its Tuesday meeting.
The commission wanted to see a cost estimate for a design that includes a three-lane elevate track as preferred by the community, but the designs presented for approval only had a two-lane elevated track to keep the construction costs down. Mayor Mike Dodson recommended the tabling.
The presented designs, in addition to the track, can be programmed for an 84 foot KSHSA basketball court, two NCAA volleyball courts as well as two pickleball courts. There were also two optional 884 square foot multi-purpose rooms — one of which would be a fitness room — available as additions.
The base building is estimated to cost $3.4 million, one multi-purpose room brings that to $3.75 million and both bumps it to $4.06 million. Some different designs presented to the Douglas Center Advisory Board (DCAB) that included a three-lane track ranged in cost from $4.5 million to $4.9 million because they’d have to expand the size of the overall building.
The project was originally planned to be funded by U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development grants, but the plans wouldn’t meet its requirements. An additional sales tax was proposed as a possible funding source, as well as general obligation bonds.
Douglas Center Director Dave Baker says the current center has been doing more than ever, but is still inadequate for the community’s needs. He says he hopes commissioners can agree on a design that will serve those needs for decades to come.
“Are we giving all parts of the community the same treatment?” Baker says. “I think it’s imperative we give that some serious thought with this facility because it’s going to be important to this community years from now when we’re all gone.”
Mayor Pro Tempore Usha Reddi questions why the city seems to scrutinize spending on the DRC compared to other projects, adding she wouldn’t mind increasing the cost a little to make it equitable to the other planned middle school recreation centers.
“I want to think a little bigger and make it possible for those residents who are living there to keep wanting to live there,” says Reddi. “Make that value, make the properties there a little more valuable so people do want to live in that neighborhood.”
Commissioner Linda Morse wanted to know what additional improvements are planned outside of the building are estimated to cost, but that she’s encouraged to see the finished project.
Commissioner Wynn Butler says the project is a classic case of “mission creep” and that he doesn’t want it to end up falling on property tax.
“We started off saying we want a basketball court and it was going to cost around $3 million,” Butler says. “Now we’ve got a weight room and a community room and the track is driving the whole train.”
He also wants more information on the funding details, adding that it probably should have been added to the sales tax funding the other recreation centers. Commissioner Jerred McKee says he’s okay with mission creep on this project.
“We have one shot at this and if we don’t do it the right way, we’re not going to go back and re-address those issues most likely,” says McKee. “We have to make investment into the Douglas Center otherwise we’ll be looking to sell it off [in the future]because we won’t be able to pay to maintain and fix it up.”
The item will return to the commission for reconsideration with an additional contract option that includes a design featuring a three-lane track.

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