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Merriam Parks Facilities Master Plan Updates

As a Merriam Parks & Rec Facilities Master Plan is developed and implemented, find the latest info right here.

Oct 26

Community members tour regional parks and recreation facilities

Posted on October 26, 2016 at 2:59 PM by Andy Graham

On Monday, September 24, four city council members, three steering committee members, one citizen, two city staff members, and three consultants toured five area recreational facilities. Each facility provided a unique perspective into how a variety of local communities provide recreational services.

Here’s a rundown of facilities the group toured:  

Olathe Community Center
Age: 2 years
Size: 71,168 square feet
Construction Cost: $28.5 million
Annual Operation Cost: $1.978 million
Features/Amenities: indoor pool, fitness center, meeting rooms, child watch, walking track, dedicated indoor child play area, three regulation gymnasiums, artwork
Miscellaneous: Located in a park setting

Sylvester Powell Community Center, Mission
Age: 17 years/renovation after 5 years
Size: 80,000 square feet
Construction Cost: $16.5 million
Annual Operation Cost: $2.125 million
Features/Amenities: indoor pool, fitness center, walking track, meeting rooms, 3 regulation gymnasiums, congregation space for adults
Miscellaneous: closest community center to Merriam

High Blue Wellness, Belton
Age: 56,000 square feet
Construction Cost: Unknown
Annual Operation Cost: $1.6 million
Features/Amenities: indoor pool, outdoor aquatics, specialized fitness space, one gymnasium
Miscellaneous: located in a park setting

The View, Grandview
Age: 13 years
Size: 60,000 square feet
Construction Cost: $12 million
Annual Operation Cost: unknown
Features/Amenities: small indoor pool, art space, congregation space, incorporation of art, meeting rooms, fitness center, gymnasium

Gamber Community Center, Lee’s Summit
Age: 8 years
Size: 19,000 square feet
Construction Cost: $3.75 million
Annual Operation Cost: $453,600
Features/Amenities: meeting/congregational space, incorporation of art, park setting, outdoor amenities, small fitness center, small classrooms
Miscellaneous: originally built as a senior center

The tours were intended to provide examples of building layout, perceived value of services offered, as well as the size, scope, and operations (including staffing requirements) of similar amenities. Overall, it’s beneficial to see similar spaces in use when discussing options for building a new space. It is also helps to hear about lessons learned during the planning and construction process. Lastly, because of the varying ages of the facilities toured it allowed the group to see how interior details can be an important factor to consider when budgeting for long-term operational costs.  

Next Steps
As we near the end of the process to develop a Facilities Master Plan, mark your calendars for a public meeting at the Irene B. French Community Center on December 13 at 7 p.m. This is when the Master Plan consultants will present their draft recommendation of what a new facility should include to meet the community’s needs. After receiving public input, the consultants will present the final recommendation to Merriam City Council at the January 9 council meeting.
Upon acceptance of the recommendation, city council will begin discussion about how to proceed. Council will also review estimated costs for two other complete concepts that were developed as part of a previous assessment. City staff’s objective will be providing council members with the detailed information needed to make the most informed decision.
Oct 24

Survey findings bring community needs into focus

Posted on October 24, 2016 at 2:43 PM by Andy Graham

At the Sept. 22 Facilities Master Plan Steering Committee meeting, staff from Pros Consulting, SFS Architecture, ETC Institute, and consultants from Confluence presented findings from a statistically valid survey; proposals for a preliminary program plan; and an analysis of site configurations. When combined, this information will make up a majority of the Facilities Master Plan, slated to go before City Council in December. If Council adopts the Master Plan, work will begin to develop an Implementation Plan, which would include financing options and other considerations.

Right now, we’re still in the process of trying to determine what Merriam residents want for their Parks & Rec facilities, and recent survey results help to provide a greater understanding. We’ll look at some key findings in this post, but you are welcome to read the full report in the “Master Plan Documents” section of the Merriam website.

A Statistically Valid Survey
The survey required 400 respondents to be considered statistically valid. We had 522 people complete and return the survey, ensuring a 95 percent confidence level with a /-4.3 percent margin of error — anything under 5 percent is considered valid.


Survey respondents represented an equal distribution of ages, length of Merriam residency, and gender (male/female). In addition, information related to race identification was consistent with current census data. The number of participants that voted in elections during the past two years was 85 percent. The cross-tabulated data was broken down into four categories: households with children under 10; households with children ages 10–19; households 20–54 with no children; and households 55 and older with no children.

Top Choices for Amenities

When asked which three items would be most important to include in the design of a new or redesigned aquatic center, respondents in each age group chose either the zero depth entry pool or lazy river. The next choices were mixed. Water slides was the third choice for households with children, but households without children want an outdoor pool with lap lanes. The fourth choice was a mix of spray pad, outdoor pool lap lanes, water slides and diving boards. An interesting fact from this question is that in all households with children, as well as those 20 – 54 without children, 87 percent indicated that at least one of the amenities should be included at the pool. This shows strong support for an aquatic center.

A similar question was asked in regards to a community center. All households chose an indoor jogging walking track as their first choice. The second choice for households with children 10 -19, and both categories of households without children was cardiovascular/fitness equipment, whereas those in households with children under age 10 selected the indoor leisure pool for their second choice.

A clear shift in priorities is evident further down the list. As with the aquatic center, the percentage of households selecting at least one item was extremely high, while households age 55 and older with no children were the lowest at 77 percent.


The last finding we’ll highlight pertains to support for different financing options. Two household categories chose a combination of a local sales tax increase, and an increase for local property taxes as a first choice. One household category chose a local sales tax increase, and one household category did not know or was not sure what they wanted. The second choice revealed the opposite result: two household categories chose the local sales tax increase; one household category selected the combination of sales tax and property tax; and the fourth household category didn’t choose either.

Key Findings

Consultants from ETC Institute provided the following summary of results:
  • There’s strong support new aquatic features.
  • Aquatic features rated as most desired are: a lazy river and zero depth entry.
  • Residents want indoor recreation facilities and amenities.
  • Top three priorities are: indoor track, fitness equipment, and indoor leisure pool.
  • Compared to other priorities, development of improve indoor facilities was rated as the most important amenity.
  • 43 percent of respondents in all household categories indicated they would use an aquatic facility with the amenities most important to them on a weekly basis.
  • 51 percent of respondents in all household categories indicated they would use a community center with the amenities most important to them on a weekly basis.

Contact Parks and Recreation Director Anna Slocum with questions. And check this blog each week for more project updates.

View a presentation of the survey results

Read the full report of survey findings

Oct 24

Process updates and early concept renderings

Posted on October 24, 2016 at 12:13 PM by Andy Graham

At Monday evening’s Merriam City Council meeting, staff presented an update on the Facilities Master Plan process, which included early concepts and renderings. This post summarizes the presentation.   

First off, it’s important to emphasize that everything is still conceptual at this point — much like the previous studies completed by Susan Richards Johnson and Associates or Larkin Aquatics.

Here’s an illustration showing the long process of creating a final plan — items in red are complete; those in green are in progress, and the ones in black have not begun.

Master Plan Process Graphic Crop

As you can see, we still have a way to, and are very eager to reach the finish line. Conducting the statistically-valid survey was a key part of the process, and since receiving the final report, staff has devoted much time analyzing the results. The past few blog posts discussed those findings.

Three concepts emerged from the survey findings. These concepts are based solely on what residents say they want new facilities to include, and all three were presented to the Steering Committee on September 22. These preliminary plans show approximate square footage to determine if city-owned land could be used.

Please keep in mind that these are only preliminary concepts that are not attached to costs or financial expenditures at this time.

Concepts (presentation and renderings available online)

Concept A (~65,000 GSF)

New Facility in Vavra Park including Indoor & Outdoor Aquatic Center

Concept B (~53,000 GSF)

New Facility in Vavra Park including Outdoor Aquatics

Concept C (~53,000 – 65,000 GSF ~18,000 GSF IBFCC)

New Facility in Vavra Park, including indoor and/or outdoor aquatics renovation of a portion of the existing Irene B. French Community Center

* Adaptive reuse of the 1911 and 1938 construction into an art center with surrounding park use development.

Studies show that Vavra Park is large enough to accommodate each of these concepts, but the sizes represented in the renderings are estimates. Program areas in each concept will be studied further, as we must identify a threshold to determine cost recovery of operational expenses — and multiple operational scenarios will be reviewed for each concept

Next steps in the process:

´  Staff and consultants will tour other facilities in the region

´  Consultants will prepare a business plan, including:

´  Per unit cost for membership

´  Core programs based on new space

´  Operational budget

´  Operational management standards

´  The Steering Committee will meet on November 2, 2016 to discuss the business plan

´  Final master plan will go before Merriam City Council on December 12, 2016

For more information:

View a presentation of the concept renderings

Read the full report of survey findings