Is there still support for new Prairie Village community center? City wants to find out

PV Ymca

Prairie Village will soon consider conducting a survey to validate a 2019 survey that found broad support for a community center. File photo.

Prairie Village is considering resurveying residents to find out if there is still interest in a new community center.

Why it matters: This new survey would come more than two years after a previous survey showed broad resident support for a new community center, “assuming reasonable cost,” to replace the aging Paul Henson YMCA near 79th Street and Mission Road.

If approved, this new survey’s results would be used by city leaders and YMCA officials to see whether there is still community support for a new recreational facility — as well as support from residents to pay for it.

What’s new: In a public meeting Thursday, the city’s ad hoc civic center committee unanimously recommended bringing a survey and mailer agenda item before the city council.

Additionally, the ad hoc civic center committee recommended staff work on a memorandum of understanding with the Y and checking in with the following potential partners:

  • Johnson County Library, as it relates to the future of Corinth Library
  • Shawnee Mission School District, to see if there’s any interest on partnering on some sort of aquatic element to a new community center
  • Johnson County Park and Recreation District, as it relates to how the Y could complement programming rather than compete

Library not included: Unlike two years ago, the new survey would not ask residents about their support for a new library to go along with a new community center.

Mayor Eric Mikkelson said while the library is “very much part of the equation” still, their timeline is longer than that of the city’s or the Y’s.

A co-located community center and library — similar to a plan being carried out in Merriam — is a “strong possibility” in Prairie Village, Mikkelson said.

Background: Prairie Village restarted community center conversations in February, following a nearly two-year hiatus caused by COVID-19.

Prior to the pandemic, Prairie Village and the Y were in discussions about concept design and community engagement for a potential community center.

Last week, the Y held a neighborhood meeting to gauge members’ and Prairie Village residents’ support for maintaining the Paul Henson facility’s footprint in the city.

At that meeting, Y officials told the crowd that the Paul Henson Y is operating at an annual deficit of $200,00.

Here’s a timeline of the nearly decades-old community center conversations in Prairie Village.

Survey details: The survey would cost the city about $30,000 and would again be conducted by Omaha-based Wiese Research Group.

It would be nearly identical to the one conducted in 2019, though the questions about the co-located library would be removed.

Questions would focus on whether residents and other community members are interested in a Y, if residents support paying for it and what types of programming and amenities are of interest should the project move forward.

The city would aim to gather 300 responses from residents who live in certain zip codes in and around Prairie Village, on both sides of the state line.

There would also be an online survey for Prairie Village residents only, and the city is estimates approximately 600 respondents for that survey.

The entire proposed survey can be found in city documents here.

The YMCA’s Chief Operating Officer Mark Hulet said the Y is willing to share the costs of the survey if the city and the Y enter a memorandum of understanding.

What’s next: The item to resurvey residents now will go to the city council for approval.

City staff will also provide more concrete numbers about the cost for a mailer to be sent to all Prairie Village residents to notify them of the online survey, which the city council will also consider.

If approved, the survey could begin as early as July and results could be completed by August or September.

Key quote: “We’re coming out of [COVID-19] and we need to understand where the public is in this sort of new environment — what their expectations are, what their desires are,” Councilmember Ian Graves said. “Your guess is as good as mine what direction this will sway because nothing really makes a whole lot of sense post-COVID, so it could be weaker, could be the same, could be sideways, could be stronger. I think we really need to know, this is a huge investment in terms of time, in terms of staff time, in terms of possible expenditures on the capital side.”