Parks department updating Legacy, Gamber centers

rpulley@lsjournal.comApril 30, 2014 

  • $375,000

    About the cost of new equipment and renovations planned for Legacy Park and Gamber community centers

Lee’s Summit’s park department is “repurposing” its Legacy Park and Gamber centers.

At Legacy Park Community Center officials are planning a near $300,000 renovation to add more exercise equipment and other improvements.

At the Gamber Center the department will spend about $75,000, again for fitness equipment there and a few other updates.

The greater emphasis on fitness will mean some programming changes.

At the Gamber Center, the computer lab is being replaced by a weight room and more exercise machines will be added.

“Do you think people will be sad to see the computer lab gone?” asked Marly McMillen, park board president at a recent park board meeting.

“It’s gone now, and no one has complained,” replied Tom Lovell, parks administrator.

Lovell said that usage of the computer room was very low as many people have home computers, tablets or smart phones.

Gamber center also stopped its meal program because it wasn’t popular enough to cover its expenses. Pat Shepard, manager, said that was primarily because the center didn’t offer subsidized meals.

Established meal programs in other communities use grants from the Mid-America Regional Council, she said. They had precedence for grants and the last time Lee’s Summit applied, it was approved for only 15 meals, not enough to serve all its patrons at a discount.

“We were faced with deciding who gets the subsidized meals,” Shepard said. “We didn’t feel like it would be fair.”

So meals costing $5 and didn’t get enough takers.

Lovell said now the department is considering leasing the kitchen as an incubator for a business, such as a catering company or specialty foods company.

The facility is getting slight change in name to Gamber Community Center.

Mike Bowles, a volunteer at Gamber who participated in the focus groups, said he’s noticed the increase in demand for fitness equipment.

“It seems like you see more people working out than you did six months ago,” Bowles said. “I think there are considerably more members coming up there.”

The name change reflects the fact that Gamber is for everyone, not only older adults, a misconception in the city, although it does offer services to fill a gap for older adults as part of its programming.

“Gamber Center is a wonder facility,” Bowles said. “Anyone who hasn’t been there should come take a tour.”

At Legacy Park Community Center, the three community rooms on the first level are being converted to fitness areas.

There the parks department is canceling Teen Factor, a recreation camp program for ages 12-14 which hadn’t gotten enough support to continue. Rental of the community rooms hadn’t been as busy as anticipated, so that’s being dropped.

“The number of people using fitness facilities and exercise classes is growing,” Lovell said. “This will give us a higher capacity for peak times, which are typically evening, early mornings, some at noon”

The SilverSneakers program, an exercise program for older people 65 provided by many health insurance plans, and available at Legacy and Gamber, has added to demand for fitness equipment.

Lovell said insurers are realizing the financial advantages of their clients exercising and so are offering more support.

“It affects their bottom line in a positive way,” Lovell said.

Lovell said the department is in the process of getting ready to take bids and deciding whether to remodel everything at once at Legacy or one area at a time.

Either way will mean some disruption for patrons, but the end will mean several improvements. The plan is to have work finished this year.

“We’ll have things torn up for a while,” Lovell said.

At Legacy there will be a larger cycling studio, moved to the lower level, a restroom added to the upper level (which is without one now) and a room for personal trainers to work with clients.

The upstairs aerobics room becomes an expanded cardio area with additional cardio machines. Its storage closet will be replaced with restrooms; presently there are none upstairs.

The facility’s kitchen will be converted to equipment storage. Part of it might be kept to be used for concessions at the adjacent amphitheater.

Lovell said while deciding on the renovations, the department analyzed monthly comments it collects from patrons, combined with an annual survey and in September 2013 it held focus groups.

Patrons suggested making the community center primarily a fitness center.

The improvements will be paid for with money that has been set aside from membership fees, Lovell said.

The department’s philosophy is to use its sales tax for building facilities, but for ongoing operations or maintenance, it charges user groups or membership dues to support the programming after initial construction.

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