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Thursday
October 06th, 2022
L&T Opinions Page

earl wattL&T Publisher Earl Watt

 

Charles, it’s important we get the numbers correct, so I will provide them here.

Before I do, I have to address your question doesn’t come without what you would believe to be acceptable, which appears to be zero.

You will be disappointed to know that we can’t have services for zero. If you can find any reference that Liberal would operate a rec center with no paid employees I would like to see it. We already had a paid rec department staff before the building, and they simply relocated to the retired school building rather than stay in the “youth center” in Blue Bonnet Park.

The claim we “already had rec centers” is either a misunderstanding of what a school gym is or what a rec center is. Either way, a rec center is dedicated to community recreation events as its primary function. School gyms or a room with video games and a ping pong table is not a recreation center.

Some of the remodel at the old South Middle School building will be to provide a city commission chamber, similar to what Seward County has, and also provide a space for Kids Inc., which is made up of volunteers, to have a space to store equipment and have meetings.

Other remodeling was provided by grants, including a golf simulator and indoor batting cage facility.

After requesting all expenditures on the building and receiving an itemized listing, the City of Liberal has spent $639,747.34 on the rec center, however, they have received donations and had revenue sales of $506,615. So the total cost in 1-cent sales tax dollars is $133,132.34.

purple wave jan 12 article

That number will increase when the HVAC is repaired and a sprinkler system is installed, as well as other needs, but even with those costs, the facility itself with improvements will still be less than $1 million from the sales tax.

While the rec center is generating some money to cover some of its costs, it is impossible to believe a rec center would become a profit center any more than a park, a road or a street sweeper makes money for the city. They all provide us with a service.

As far as activities with the sports events director position, we conducted a video interview with Nick Rotolo on Dec. 16, and that video is available on our Facebook page.

In that interview, Rotolo mentioned he had 34 weekend events in 2021. Since your stated number was to have two per month, that would be 24 events, so there have been 10 more events than you expected. That’s good, right?

One of those events was a baseball tournament which had 30 teams. If each team had 15 players, and each player had two parents, that one event brought 450 players and 900 parents, not to mention siblings or grandparents. That means 1,350 people were in Liberal that weekend. If they spent on average $150 per person for the weekend on motel, fuel, food, entry fees, shopping, entertainment, etc., that weekend would have had a direct economic impact of $202,500.

Sales tax collections are up in Liberal in 2021 by almost $500,000 compared to 2020. And 2020 was up from 2019, so it wasn’t up because of a decrease from the pandemic. It is at least fair to say a portion of that increase was due to increased sports tourism.

While I agree spending public money on private business like Trailmobile was a catastrophic mistake, a rec center is nowhere near the same comparison. A more fair comparison would be the senior center receiving public funds. We all believe that providing our seniors with a facility is absolutely the right thing to do, and a rec center for children and families is also a necessity.

 

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