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County working toward two community centers

Wegner says survey finds enough support for two

by Kim Fickett
Landmark reporter

A great interest for community centers in Platte County was the overwhelming response from a telephone survey conducted by The Winfield Consulting Group, Inc. in January.

According to Steve Wegner, county commissioner for the second district, "The survey showed a great interest for community centers in the county."

"The survey wanted to gauge the county viability of a community center and also have information of what services the residents of Platte County wanted to be provided in each community center," said Wegner. "As far as the commissioners, that was a priority."

The survey indicated that the residents of Platte County's first choice for a community center was Parkville-46%, KCI area-35%, and Platte City 17%.

"The Parkville location had overwhelming numbers. There's enough interest and population in the Parkville area that will financially support the community center," stated Wegner.
The proposed Parkville location is a 6-7 acre tract of land at the intersection of 45 and 9 Highway.

While the Platte City location numbers may not have been as strong as the commission would have liked, Wegner stated they are still considering the construction of a second community center in Platte City.

"I believe we found enough support for the two proposals. The numbers in Platte City are weak compared to Parkville," explained Wegner. "However, what the numbers do indicate is that the Platte City location would have to be subsidized for some time until the population is able to support the center."

The commission is already looking at ways to fund the Platte City location, until it can stand on its own.

"If the Parkville facility turns a profit, then some of the funds would be filtered up to the facility in Platte City."

One thing Wegner is sure of is that he doesn't want the actions taken by the current commission to negatively affect Platte County or future commissions.

"I don't want to strap future commissions with a debacle," stated Wegner. "I cannot support these if they're not going to be financially viable to stand on their own legs after two or three years."

The 1/2 cent parks sales tax implemented by the county will go towards the funding of both proposed community centers. For Wegner, realization that that tax won't always be there to support the Platte City community center is enough to make everyone look toward the future for planning and answers.

"When the park tax ends in eight years, I don't want the community center to be the Shiloh Springs experience to the community center," said Wegner, referring to the financially-struggling golf course the county is involved in.

"The Platte City facility would be much different from the Parkville facility and the design of the Platte City facility would be one of design for future expansion."
Wegner stated that the county is currently looking at $14 million in funding being available for the construction of the two facilities, with $8 million available for Parkville and $6 available for the Platte City location. Beyond the money from the 1/2 cent parks sales tax, Wegner stated there are some grants available the county will be looking at pursuing.

While a significant percentage separated the Parkville and Platte City location, the services requested for each location are pretty much shared.

"The results in the southern and northern part of the county are close to being mirrored," said Wegner.

The main amenities for the community centers included a wellness center, an aquatics amenity including a cold water lap pool and a warm water pool, a youth component, and a training/education type program available in the facility.

In the past, discussion was formulated around the design being similar to a center in North Kansas City. But according to Wegner, the scope of these proposed facilities is no longer being compared to the North Kansas City facility.

"These facilities won't be that extensive; not even close. We don't have a gaming boat to subsidize our community centers," said Wegner.

According to Wegner, the commission is currently in discussion with the two proposed locations.

"We have begun talks with the Parkville people to secure the location. Once that location is secured, we can then begin on the design of the facility," stated Wegner. "I'm hoping by November we'll be able to ink some sort of agreement on the land." From that point, Wegner felt like a 14-18 month timeline would be accurate until construction was complete.

Discussion of a possible partnership between Platte County and the Platte County R-3 School District is still under discussion for the purchase of a 10-acre tract of land in front of the Northland Career Center along Hwy. 92. Wegner stated that ideally he would like to see the construction of the two community centers to happen at the same time.

While the securing of the land remains under discussion, Wegner stated the county is still looking at a partnership with the YMCA.

"The YMCA comes in with the experience of operations and marketing. It's a likelihood the partnership is going to take place, but it is still in negotiations."

If the negotiations go through as expected with the YMCA, Wegner stated he likes what that possibility will offer to the county residents.

"We can program the north and south locations different and yet at the same time be able to offer more to the county residents because the Y is interconnected throughout the country. This means members of the Parkville facility will also be able to use the Platte City facility, because both facilities will be a member of the YMCA."

While the county is anticipating the partnership with the YMCA, Wegner stated he wanted to clear up a rumor that seems to be circulating around the county.

"The rumor is that the YMCA is driving the whole process, and that's not the case at all. They're a very willing participant but they're not driving the process," stated Wegner. "The county is in charge of the destiny of the community centers."