WELLSVILLE — A recreation center, just like a school, is an investment in the youth, Ron Bloss said.
Bloss and other Wellsville school board members listened to a presentation Monday night about a proposed recreation center, made by Casey Lytle, Wellsville Joint Recreation Commission advisor. Lytle and Gavin Fouts, joint recreation commission board member, were gauging the board’s interest in moving forward with the project.
“This is just initial talk about putting a rec center in town,” Lytle said. “We aren’t looking to move dirt in five months.”
The recreation commission wants to get ideas from the community, Fouts said. He hopes within the next few months the community can get together in a type of “town meeting” setting, he said.
Recreation commission board members plan to visit other recreation centers in the area before bringing a proposal to the community. Those visits have not yet been set.
Lytle discussed a possible mill levy increase to fund the project. The recreation commission receives 2 mills annually from the school board, which equals about $90,000. A 2-mill increase would push the yearly total to about $180,000 for the recreation commission — which annually would equate to less than $40 per $100,000 household in Wellsville, Jerry Henn, Wellsville superintendent, said. The recreation commission currently is third-lowest among joint recreation commissions in the state in terms of mills collected, Lytle told the board Monday, and Fouts said it had been 27 years since the commission came to the school board to ask for a mill levy raise.
Fouts was not sure how much a new recreation center would cost, he said, but the commission has been comparing costs with facilities such as the Ottawa Community Recreation Center/Goppert Building, 705 W. 15th St., Ottawa, and the Eudora Community Center, 1630 Elm St., Eudora. Lytle said the Wellsville commission would apply for grants to help offset the cost. He said the commission most likely would be able to secure Federal Emergency Management Agency grant money if the new facility also was a storm shelter, for example.
A recreation facility could help address the lack of gym space in the community, Fouts said.
“We are starting to get more kids involved in extracurricular activities — baseball, softball, basketball ... volleyball is getting really big now,” he said. “There is just a lack of gym availability. With softball, the way sports are now, there are a lot of off-season workouts and stuff like that. The baseball and softball teams are practicing in what used to be the multipurpose room [at the high school], which is now half classrooms and the rest of it used to be a cafeteria. There really isn’t a lot of room and equipment to do workouts in the off-season.”
Wellsville’s youth aren’t the only ones who would benefit from the construction of a recreation center, they said. Some residents have expressed interest in a walking track if a center was built, Fouts said.
“We’ve had a few older people in town that are very interested in getting on a committee and going door-to-door and talk to the community and tell them what we are wanting to do,” he said. “They don’t really have anywhere to go right now. With the stipulations the school has, which I have no problem with, for security purposes, they have to lock the doors, so the older people can’t get in there to walk in the mornings or in the evenings. The closest place they have to go for a controlled environment is the Great Mall in Olathe or the Goppert Center in Ottawa.”
A new recreation center might include such amenities as a walking track, two basketball courts, a concession area, a fitness area, district offices for the recreation commission and possibly a batting cage, Fouts said.
“Having a fitness area, probably not free weights because there is a big liability with that, but machine weights, treadmills — stuff like that,” Fouts said. “Concessions, you know, people might be interested in cooking classes and we could incorporate that with the concession area. Three or four decent sized rooms if people wanted to use them for meetings, yoga, taekwondo. We would move our office over to this building so there is always someone there and have our board meetings there.”
One possible site for a center would be in Saddle Club Park in Wellsville, Fouts said. Using that land, however, might put an end to any expansion of the baseball fields at the park, he said.
If the mill levy is raised in Wellsville, the commission would not use the additional funds solely to build a new recreation center. Several other items on the recreation commission’s list need to be taken care of as well, Fouts said.
“There is a lot of stuff out there at the Saddle Club that needs updated,” he said. “The old wooden light poles are getting a lot of wear and tear on them and they are starting to lean. The lights themselves are probably not energy efficient. If we build a rec center, it would be nice to have a paved parking lot. The tennis courts need a lot of updating. There are a lot of things that have a lot of wear and tear on them that need updating.”
Still, Fouts said, he sees the importance of bringing a recreation facility to the community.
“Wellsville hasn’t had a whole lot of growth in the past 10 to 15 years and the communities around us have,” Fouts said. “If we put it around Saddle Club, if people are driving by looking for a house and they see the rec center, if the right person sees it they might think, ‘This is a growing community, I might bring my business down here.’”