Ad-hoc group’s poll shows many are interested in sports facility

By The Mercury

A Manhattan-area group says it has found substantial demand for an indoor facility to hold youth sports events and provide recreation and practice space.

The “Fieldhouse Project” committee — an ad-hoc group of parents and community leaders — collected approximately 2,300 surveys of people in the Manhattan, Wamego and Junction City communities last month. Of those, 55.6 percent said that a new indoor recreation facility was a “high priority” or a “very high priority” compared to other local issues. Another 27.8 percent said it was a “medium priority.”

The survey was conducted online; it was advertised in newspapers in all three communities, organizers said. A link to the survey was sent out by e-mail through city, school district and Chamber of Commerce e-mail lists, among other methods, they said. About 60 percent of the responses came from Manhattan; Wamego provided about 12 percent, Junction City, 3 percent, and other communities the balance.

The survey also found that 21.3 percent of respondents thought that current local facilities “meet all of your needs,” while 69.1 percent found that local facilities “meet some of your needs.” Another 9.5 percent said facilities here meet “none” of their needs.

“The community assessment clearly shows that the need is here and the communities want it,” said Gail Urban, chairperson of the committee.

Based on those findings, the committee plans to pursue the idea of a formal economic feasibility study conducted by a private firm, Urban said. There are no solid plans about what would be in the facility, where it would be, how much it would cost, or how it would be funded, Urban said; those things would largely be answered by the study.

“This company will look at whether it’s doable financially, what it could bring to the community, and whether it can be done without tax dollars,” Urban said. “Our goal is to have an independent, financially feasible sports facility.”

The idea, Urban said, is to provide a place where local youth — and adults — can participate in sports year-round, and where the community can benefit by being able to host more and larger sporting events.

“What we’re really creating here is tourism,” Urban said. “When families come to our town for sporting tournaments, they’re filling our hotel rooms, they’re eating out at least two meals, they’re going to the mall or other businesses in downtime between games, they’re filling up with gas, and then they leave.

It’s not just a quality-of-life issue for regional residents; it’s an economic issue.”

Karen Hibbard, director of the Manhattan Convention and Visitors Bureau, said the CVB tracked 53 sporting events in Manhattan in 2012, including 22,000 attendees, generating approximately $6.8 million in revenue. That was up from about $3 million in revenue for the 24 events tracked in 2011. (Those do not include K-State sports events.) The CVB uses $100 per person to estimate revenue.

“The great thing about youth sports is that moms, dads, aunts, uncles and grandparents all following their budding youth athlete,” Hibbard said. “Think about the time you have followed youth sports and the amount of money you spend on the weekend. Manhattan would like to keep that money here.”

The newest indoor community recreation facility in Manhattan was built in 1955. That’s City Auditorium. The Fieldhouse Project committee contends that as a result the community is “facing a shortage of updated recreation facilities for the growing region.”

Conceptual plans drawn up by Anderson Knight Architects of Manhattan include basketball courts; volleyball courts; indoor turf space that could accommodate soccer, football and baseball; an indoor track; and multipurpose spaces for wrestling, martial arts, cheerleading, dance and yoga. But those are just ideas, depending on what the more formal market study would show.

The survey indicated strongest support for an indoor track, workout areas, turf field, meeting space, and basketball courts, according to data provided by the committee. The conceptual plans did not include weight rooms, cardiovascular workout areas and the like because those services are already provided by private gyms.

Money for the survey and some of the work came from the Greater Manhattan Community Foundation, the Manhattan city government, the Riley County government, and in-kind donations from the Manhattan Convention and Visitors’ Bureau.

Urban said the feasibility study itself would be “funded through business partnerships, community charitable dollars, and various community or regional partnerships.” She said the group would be making presentations to community groups about the concept.

She also said construction costs for the facility itself — if it gets built — would be paid in part by “community charitable donations.”

The survey indicated some willingness for tax money to go toward the building and its operating costs, but the strongest preference was in a mixture of user fees and taxes.

Board members of the committee include Tracy Anderson, Chris Cole, Chris Eichman, Steve Fritz, Bernie Haney, Chuck Scott, Cory Meyer, Chassy Nichols, Ned Seaton, Lance White, Curt Loupe, and Urban.









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