Frequently Asked Questions
Merriam City Council approved the overall design for the new community center with indoor and outdoor aquatics during its Sept. 24, 2018 meeting. A 200-stall parking structure will also be built onsite.
Design Process FAQs
The City will build a new community center with indoor and outdoor aquatics at Vavra Park for $30 million.
What did Merriam voters approve?
In September 2017, 67.5 percent of Merriam voters approved the following ballot language:
Shall the City of Merriam, Kansas be authorized to: (1) issue general obligation bonds in a principal amount of not to exceed $24,000,000 to pay costs to construct certain parks and recreation capital improvements, including but not limited to construction of a new facility that will be used as a community center and aquatics center (the "New Community Center"), and to pay associated financing costs; and (2) impose a one-quarter percent (0.25%) Citywide retailers' sales tax to commence on January 1, 2018, or as soon thereafter as permitted by law and terminate ten (10) years after its commencement, the proceeds of which shall be used to pay the costs of the New Community Center and debt service on general obligation bonds issued to finance the New Community Center; all pursuant to the provisions of K.S.A. 10-101 et seq., K.S.A. 12-187 et seq., K.S.A. 12-1301 et seq., K.S.A. 12-1736 et seq. and K.S.A. 25-431 et seq., as amended?
What were the proposed amenities as part of the master plan?
The new community center design (including indoor and outdoor aquatics) is based off of the Master Plan adopted by City Council in January 2017. It’s important to note that while the Master Plan serves as a guide, the specific information included potential building designs and budget required for different amenities is conceptual in nature. The design team did use the list of amenities included in the Master Plan as the basis for the new community center’s overall design.
In addition, the educational materials shared with the public during the ballot initiative listed the following proposed amenities:
- Indoor walking and jogging track
- Fitness center and aerobics room
- Indoor pool with lap lanes, leisure pool, and therapeutic water
- Outdoor pool with spray pad, lap lanes, leisure pool (lazy river, slides, etc.)
- Full-size gymnasium
- Art gallery and senior lounge
- Party room
- Meeting and event space
- Catering kitchen
- Child watch
- Free social gathering space with WiFi
What amenities are currently included in the new community center design?
- Walking/jogging track
- Full-size gymnasium
- Fitness center
- Group exercise classroom
- Multi-purpose classroom
- Meeting and event room (space for a 250-person banquet)
- Child watch mothers room
- Art gallery
- Lounge area with coffee service
- Catering kitchen
- Indoor and outdoor aquatics including:
- Indoor lap lanes (4, 25-yard lanes)
- Outdoor lap lanes (8, 25-meter lanes)
- Two 1-meter diving boards (outdoor)
- Two slides – family slide and tall slide (indoor)
- Lazy River (indoor)
- Zero-depth entry (indoor and outdoor)
- Splash and play features (indoor and outdoor)
- Shade structures (outdoor)
- Therapy pool (indoor)
- On-deck concession cart
- Convenience exit from the outdoor pool directly to the parking structure
- Direct access to restrooms from both the indoor and outdoor pool decks
- Locker rooms (men’s, women’s, and family)
- Two birthday party rooms
- Outdoor courtyard and plaza event and gathering space
- Parks and Recreation Department staff offices and facility support space
- Free social gathering space with WiFi
Check out the conceptual floor plan and site plan: July 30 Public Meeting Presentation.
Please note these designs are continuing to be refined.
Is the entrance to the community center on the second floor?
The entrance to the community center is on the main floor of the building, which is at ground level. Since the building is being constructed on a slope, the front side of the building is one floor on the south and the back side of the building is two floors on the north.
Did the City use eminent domain to get land for this project?
No. The Community Center project is being built in Vavra Park on land that the City has owned since 1959. However, in preparation for this project, the City did purchase two additional pieces of property adjacent to Vavra Park for market value – 6120 Slater in 2017 and 6200 Slater in 2018.
What aquatic design did City Council approve?
While Merriam currently only has an outdoor aquatics center, the new community center will include an aquatics program that features both indoor and outdoor pools. The aquatics spaces are located adjacent to one another. The indoor and outdoor pools are designed to complement one another since both will be open during the three-month summer season, but the indoor aquatics area will be open year-round. City Council held three public discussions on aquatics during July and, at its July 23 meeting, selected Design Option #5 to move forward with for further development.
The current design for the indoor aquatics area includes:
- A therapy pool with warmer water
- Lazy river
- Two slides (a family slide for people shorter than 48” and a slide for people taller than 48”)
- Zero-depth entry
- Splash features and shallow water area for play
- Four-lane, 25-yard lap pool
The current design for the outdoor aquatics includes:
- Eight-lane, 25-meter lap pool with two 1-meter diving boards
- A large area with water from zero-depth entry to standing height (approximately 3’6”)
- Splash and play features
New Outdoor Pool Size Compared to Current Pool
How does the size of the new pool compare with the size of the current pool?
The design of the new aquatic center (including indoor and outdoor pools) is approximately 7.5 percent larger than our current aquatic center. Merriam’s current aquatic center has 14,415 sq. ft. of water. The new aquatic center is planned to have 15,474 sq. ft. of water – with 9,550 sq. ft. located outdoors.
Will the new outdoor lap pool design enable the swim team to continue to participate in the Johnson County Swim and Dive league?
Yes. The Johnson County Swim and Dive League confirmed that the Merriam Dolphins Swim Team will continue to be able to compete in the league and host swim meets at the new community center in the outdoor eight-lane, 25-meter pool.
Is the community center project currently over budget?
No. Although there are rumors in the community that the budget has increased to $41 million, these rumors are false.
The current budget for the project includes $30 million for the design and construction of the community center (including indoor and outdoor aquatics) and $6.6 million in proposed TIF funding for the construction of a parking structure and related site work.
In order to ensure the project came in on budget, the City utilized a design-build process for this project. This means the community center’s designer and contractor worked together from the beginning, as a team, to provide unified project recommendations to fit the City’s schedule and budget. On January 28, 2019, the City Council approved a guaranteed maximum price of $32.5 million for construction of the building and the parking structure. This is the maximum amount the City will pay McCarthy for construction of the project. In addition, the City has budgeted $4.1 million for “soft costs,” such as other professional services, furniture/finishings/equipment, and the City’s project contingency. These combined amounts ($32.5 million + $4.1 million) equal the overall $36.6 million project budget.
What did City Council approve for $1.6 million during the July 23 City Council meeting?
After listening to resident feedback, councilmembers directed staff to identify an additional $1.6 million funding source to increase the size of the community center’s outdoor pool.
With assistance from the design team and bond counsel, several additional TIF-eligible improvements directly related to the parking structure were identified that were originally budgeted in the $30 million community center budget. These items are now included in the proposed TIF project, thus keeping all $30 million budgeted available for the new community center building and aquatics.
What is the additional $6.6 million in the budget going to be used for?
The $6.6 million is proposed TIF funding to pay for the construction of the parking structure and the associated site work. None of this money is or can be used for utilizing construction of the community center.
The parking structure concept was added to the site plan as a result of the ongoing conversations regarding co-locating the library on the site. While a library branch and the necessary parking would fit on the site without the parking structure, it would require the entire site to be paved. The parking structure will allow for closer parking to both facilities and more green space onsite.
Is the Master Plan budget being adhered to?
The budget for the community center project is based off of the Master Plan adopted by City Council in January 2017. It’s important to note that while the Master Plan serves as a guide, the specific information included about budget required for different amenities is conceptual in nature and may change based on the details of the actual design and the construction market. The priority of the design team has been to deliver on the list of proposed amenities included in the Master Plan, which are detailed above, while adhering to the overall $30 million budget set by the City Council for this project.
While the Master Plan initially identified $11,185,000 for the community center components and $10,240,000 for the aquatic components, these numbers were conceptual, based on proposed amenities. In addition, the aquatics component budget included more than just water – it also included deck space, equipment, concessions, support spaces (chemical/mechanical/electrical/pump rooms and storage), party rooms, and lifeguard/first aid space. During the actual design process, rooms in the building are not priced individually – the project is designed as a complete package to include designing and constructing a set of amenities for an overall budget amount ($30 million).
What is going on with Antioch Library, and how does that affect the Merriam Community Center project?
The City began conversations with the Library and Johnson County in spring 2017 about an opportunity to co-locate on the same site as the City’s new community center after learning that the Johnson County Library Board had identified the Antioch branch as a location that needed to be rebuilt in the next five years. This potential partnership was first announced to the public during the April 25, 2017, joint meeting with the City Council, Park Board, and Facilities Master Plan Steering Committee, and continued to be a topic of conversation at presentations throughout the ballot initiative and with the City Council.
This partnership seemed worth exploring for a number of reasons:
- Maintaining a library branch in Merriam is a priority. The Antioch branch is the original branch of the Johnson County Library system, and the City wanted to ensure our residents continued access to a library in our community moving forward.
- Locating libraries on the same site as community centers/civic centers have worked well in other communities, including Shawnee, Lenexa, and Leawood.
- Combining two taxpayer-funded entities onto one site provided for a more efficient use of tax dollars. This is one reason why the City intends to sell the land to Johnson County for $1; it’s a common practice among government entities and is aimed at saving taxpayer dollars.
- Relocating Antioch Library would open up the corner of Shawnee Mission Parkway and Antioch for future development. The City currently receives $0 in property taxes on the library site since it’s an exempt government building. Future redevelopment will likely lead to new sales taxes and new commercial property taxes – both of which keep residential property tax rates low.
In December 2018 and January 2019, respectively, the City Council and Johnson County Library Board approved a Memorandum of Understanding confirming their intent to move forward with this project and outlining the next steps.
Did the size of the community center decrease and/or the City’s budget increase to accommodate the library on the site?
No. The community center is still the same size and will still be in the same location as it had always been contemplated to be onsite as noted in the Master Plan – with or without the library.
While a library branch and the necessary parking would fit on the site without the parking structure, it would require the entire site to be paved. The parking structure (which is proposed to be paid for using $6.6 million in TIF funding) will allow for closer parking to both facilities and more green space onsite.
Is the City paying for the Library to be constructed?
No. The City designed the site plan to provide space for the Library to co-locate on the site. The City is not paying for the library to be constructed.
Why is the proposed library smaller than the current branch?
According to the 2015 Johnson County Comprehensive Library Master Plan, the current Antioch branch is approximately 35,000 sq. ft. Of that, 17,000 sq. ft. is used for regular branch operations for the public and 18,000 sq. ft. is utilized for administrative services related to system-wide library operations and isn’t open to the public. The Library Master Plan identifies the need to renovate or rebuild this facility in the coming years and proposed a new size of 15,000 sq. ft., all of which would be dedicated to regular branch operations.
How have residents had the opportunity to be involved in the design process?
- The conversation about the future of recreation in Merriam started in 2014. Between 2014 and early 2017, the City completed studies about the existing community center and aquatics center and engaged residents as part of the master planning process. This included the appointment of a resident-led steering committee, a number of public meetings, and a statistically significant survey sent to residents about recreation amenities conducted by the ETC Institute (read more about this process in the Master Plan).
- Based on the steering committee’s recommendation, City Council adopted the Master Plan in February 2017, which identified the construction of a new community center with indoor and outdoor aquatics as the preferred option.
- In June 2017, City Council formally voted to place the question of whether the City should issue bonds to build a new community center with indoor and outdoor aquatics or renovate the existing community center and aquatic center. Nearly 70 percent of Merriam voters cast ballots in favor of the new community center project.
- In late 2017 and early 2018, the City convened a selection committee for the design-build team, which included City staff, the City’s owner’s representative (CBC), a member of City Council, and a member of the Park Board and Facilities Master Plan Steering Committee. McCarthy Building Companies was ultimately selected to lead the construction process.
- The Mayor appointed an eight-person resident design committee to assist with the design process. This group has held four meetings throughout the summer and an additional meeting in late 2018 to review the design team’s work and provide feedback and suggestions.
- Two public meetings were held on June 21 and July 30 to present design updates to residents.
- Staff provides a regular project update at the first City Council meeting of each month, in addition to special updates and work sessions as needed (view all presentations). Public comments are also accepted at every City Council meeting.
- Two good-neighbor meetings were held this summer for residents and businesses living in close proximity to the site to provide design updates and information about the construction plan.
- The City has maintained a project website throughout the entire process - mprfacilities.org since the conversation began in 2014 and merriam.org/buildingcommunity after Merriam voters passed the ballot initiative in September 2017. The City also has a special email address email@example.com where residents are encouraged to submit feedback throughout the process.
Last Updated: March 1, 2019