It seems as though the so-called “Fieldhouse Project” is going to be batted around by one and all for days, weeks, months — who knows for how long?
The city commission has had just one crack at the plan, and already opinions range from setting the whole thing on fire to letting voters decide via citywide ballot.
This might be a good time, then, to mention that the wide-ranging proposal really has two main themes.
That’s important to remember, because while part of the plan ($54 million worth of changes to Manhattan’s parks and recreation venue structure) predictably has caused quite a ruckus, there is an entire second premise to the thing that’s pretty hard to dispute.
The folks who cobbled together the “Fieldhouse Project” in the first place were concerned about the lack of playing and practice facilities for the city’s youth sports programs.
But the original report also pointed out that our lack of facilities had another unpleasant downside; namely, Manhattan families with kids competing in sports on a regional level were almost always traveling long distances to events — and spending plenty of money in the process.
The flip side of that, obviously, is that with all these tournaments and such going on elsewhere, no families from towns in Kansas or surrounding states were bringing their kids and their money here.
Even if you don’t have a youngster playing competitive soccer or baseball or whatever, that uneven playing field does affect you.
Well, it’s doing serious harm to Manhattan’s tourism business — and money that we don’t earn there may have to be found somewhere else.
We won’t say “property taxes” out loud — but pretend we whispered it.
Consider some numbers: In 2003, Manhattan’s hotel/motel industry boasted 840 sleeping rooms — and on average, 569 of those were filled each night.
Now here we are in 2013, and the city has 1,263 rooms, with another 190 opening next year. That’s 1,453 rooms, and through October, our average occupancy has been just 735 rooms per night.
“It’s pretty simple,” says Karen Hibbard, executive director of the Convention and Visitors Bureau. “We need to fill more rooms.”
Hibbard points out that the city has, indeed, made excellent strides to attract visitors. There are more and better events, improved convention facilities, attractions like the Discovery Center, and so on.
But we must keep on luring guests.
“Youth sports events would be a natural,” Hibbard says. “These families need a lot of rooms, and things to do between games.”
Yes, they do.
We urge everyone debating a change to our sports and recreation venues to remember there is a second aspect to all this.
It isn’t all about money to be spent. There is also the happy prospect of money arriving.