Merriam council OKs public art installations, hours of operation for new community center

A rendering of the art planned for the public courtyard at the Merriam Community Center.

The Merriam city council on Monday evening approved art pieces and hours of operation for the new Merriam Community Center at Vavra Park. The community center will include three pieces of art, one on the parking garage and two in the courtyard, and the hours of operation will be as follows:

  • Monday through Thursday: 5 a.m. to 9 p.m.
  • Friday: 5 a.m. to 8 p.m.
  • Saturday: 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.
  • Sunday: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
A rendering of the sculpture planned for the exterior of the parking structure.

Summer hours of operation will change slightly by staying open until 8 p.m. on Saturdays. Merriam Director of Parks and Recreation Anna Slocum said the hours were modeled after neighboring community centers and outdoor pools, such as the Lenexa Community Center. Hours of operation could be changed at a later date, she said.

The art pieces in the courtyard of the community center will be two stainless steel sculptures — one large and one small — with bold, black words on the interiors and front and back sides. Assistant City Administrator Meredtih Hauck said the artist, Blessing Hancock, chose the words based off community members’ submissions. Some words on the sculptures include generations, community, tranquil, selfless, educate and Merriam.

Councilmember Bob Pape said he was surprised there weren’t words symbolizing Merriam’s history, such as Hocker. City Administrator Chris Engel said the community center itself honors history and Merriam is “not leaving history behind.”

In addition to the words, the two sculptures will light up at night. Depending on what’s going on in Merriam that day or week, the city has the ability to change the color of the lighting on the sculpture, Hauck said.

Prior to the approvals, Hauck gave an overall status update on the new community center. Hauck said the traffic caused by the community center construction will soon move from Slater Street to Ikea Way, a milestone the city has been waiting on.

She said the project is on schedule: The city anticipates McCarthy Construction, the project’s general contractor, to deliver the building in May, per McCarthy’s contract. The project is also on track with its budget, as the contingency use has been minimal, Hauck said.

“We are over the halfway mark of construction,” Hauck said. “Despite the wet weather and the snowy weather today, we’re actually moving along pretty nicely on our timeline.”