Prairie Village council raises concerns over prospect of leaving activity center out of Meadowbrook park plans

The future of the Meadowbrook clubhouse is up in the air.
The future of the Meadowbrook clubhouse is up in the air.

When northeast Johnson County residents gathered last March to hear county and city leaders’ vision for a new public park on the site of the former country club, the idea of renovating the Meadowbrook clubhouse into a community center with the possibility of an event space, meeting rooms, a fitness center and on-site daycare attracted considerable interest.

On Wednesday, the Johnson County Park & Recreation District board will vote on whether that idea ever gets close to becoming a reality.

County officials began raising concerns about the potential costs associated with creating a community or activity center on the clubhouse site late last year, when budget estimates from consultants came in higher than expected. Through work with consultants, the parks board is now considering a range of options for the community center idea, from renovating the existing building to tearing it down and replacing it with a new structure to tearing it down and leaving the lot empty.

The options would come in at a variety of prices points, but none of them will be cheap: Estimates range from $1.5 million simply to renovate the existing clubhouse for public use with no additional improvements up to in excess of $5 million for a teardown-rebuild project. The board is considering whether it would be comfortable issuing bonds to pay for the work.

At Monday’s Prairie Village City Council meeting City Administrator Quinn Bennion said the parks board had solicited the city’s input on the matter ahead of its scheduled vote at a joint session of the Board of County Commissioners and parks board on Wednesday. Bennion said he had already communicated to parks officials that the absence of a community center of some kind in the plans for the park would likely draw blowback from Prairie Village residents, many of whom are expecting such a center.

“It is my belief that through the master planning process as well as the open house process that we had last March, the majority of the residents believe that there is going to be an activity center on site,” Bennion told the council Monday. “That’s what we shared with them.”

The council agreed, voting unanimously on a resolution expressing their desire to see some form of activity center as part of the future funding plans for the Meadowbrook project. The prospect of the county not doing something with the existing clubhouse site was of particular concern.

“If they tear it down, what do they do? Just leave a parking lot and nothing else comes back?” said council president Ted Odell. “It just seems like a big hole.”