There has been some discussion in the Mercury recently about a proposed indoor-outdoor sports facility. We all want to be responsible when talking about such a large project (so far being called the Fieldhouse). Accurate information is the best way to ensure that we make good, long-term decisions for our community.
A group of private citizens in Manhattan and Wamego — parents of current and former youth athletes — has been talking informally for several years about why so many of us travel to Overland Park and Topeka and Wichita to indoor-outdoor sports facilities instead of being able to attract families to this area for tournaments and other events.
Most of these parents, myself included, have kids who play basketball, soccer, baseball, softball, volleyball or football. Many of us coach these teams and have coached Parks and Rec sports as well. I believe positive athletic experiences for kids have a great effect on their future. The Fieldhouse could give all kids and adults a place to play sports, walk on an inside track or gather for other events. The possibilities for how this facility could serve all our citizens are pretty much limitless.
There is also an economic development factor to this project. Manhattan and Wamego families spend money on hotels, meals, gas and many other things in other cities. It seems sensible to find out whether our area could turn that stream of cars around and bring outside money into our communities instead.
So we started reaching out to other parents, citizens and businesses around the area, and we got a lot of support for more seriously exploring the idea of a sports facility. Now we feel there’s enough momentum to take the next step, which is to determine whether Manhattan and Wamego can responsibly undertake such a project.
A feasibility study is the prudent way to answer this question. From what we already know about the economic impact of similar facilities in other communities, it could bring in a lot of new revenue to our hotels, restaurants, gas stations and retailers — and could have a direct, positive impact on the entire Manhattan and Wamego area economy. Therefore, an investment of about $100,000 to give us some facts seems like a sensible decision.
In my opinion, it’s a little too early to start debating a lot of the specifics of the facility. The feasibility study should help answer questions about its optimum size, funding mechanisms and sources, location, features and so forth. Once we have this information, then citizens in Manhattan and Wamego should definitely have a public dialogue about the pros and cons.
A lot of businesses and private citizens, myself included, have pitched in our own money toward funding the study. The parents group didn’t solicit the Manhattan Chamber of Commerce, but the chamber also voted to support the study, as did the Wamego Convention and Visitors Bureau.
I hope local governmental bodies will support the funding of the feasibility study so that all of us who pay taxes and raise our families here can make an informed decision. I invite you to come out to any of the ball fields this summer or go to a big tournament in another city so you can see for yourself the numbers of young athletes and families we’re talking about.
Finally, please visit fieldhouseks.com to watch a video and get more information. This is a great area, and I’m confident we’ll make good decisions for our families and our communities.
Manhattan resident Scott Munsen, who is involved in multiple youth sports organizations, is credit manager at Steel and Pipe Supply Co.