Merriam expects three-week delay in new community center opening due to COVID-19

The new Merriam Community Center cannot open to the public without three critical construction elements, which have yet to be delivered due to COVID-19 impacts. This will set the community center opening back by three weeks, according to city staff. 

The Merriam city staff Monday evening informed the city council it’s expecting a three-week delay in opening the new community center — originally set to open to the public on June 8 — due to coronavirus-related supply chain issues.

Assistant City Administrator Meredith Hauck said it looks like charter members, originally planned to have community center access starting June 1, may not be able to get in until June 22. The city is working to make sure it takes care of those who have already bought community center memberships by doing the following, Hauck said:

  • The 12-month timeline for those who have already purchased charter memberships will not begin until the community center opens to the public. Those who planned on purchasing a 100-day summer membership will follow suit.
  • Irene B. French Community Center memberships that have been paused due to COVID-19 will receive the amount of time lost in the form of a membership to the new community center, once it opens.

Three critical pieces of the Merriam Community Center, 6040 Slater Street, that should already be on site have yet to be delivered due to coronavirus impacts, Hauck said.

Below are the items currently delayed, as Hauck outlined in the meeting:

  • Decorative wood ceiling over the main corridors and community center, which is critical because it impacts the building completion work that can happen around it.
  • The fire panel, which the community center can not open without and the city has not received a timeline for when it will be delivered.
  • Pool tile, which the city is unsure of its delivery status, and alternatives for tile would not arrive any quicker.

Hauck said city staff is also discussing what the opening process will look like: Federal and county guidelines on opening gyms and pools post-pandemic are varying, so the city does not have enough information to determine a firm opening date at this moment.

In order to give a better date, she said the city will have see how the opening sequence plays out on a community level.

“It could be possible that we have a completed building that we are not able to open to the public because of public health restrictions, but we’ll just have to keep everybody updated on that as we work through it,” Hauck said.

Additionally, Hauck said it is very unlikely that public health restrictions will allow for the reopening of the Irene B. French Community Center prior to its planned closing date of May 15.

City Administrator Chris Engel said the city also has to keep in mind the impact of what neighboring communities may or may not be doing regarding pool openings. City staff members across northeast Johnson County are discussing when pool openings might happen, and whether opening is worth it if they are unable to do so until July, he said. If some cities choose to open pools while others don’t, it may overwhelm those that are open, he said.