Seven years ago, Olathe’s first community center wasn’t much more than items on a wish list. Now it’s nearly built.
Construction is still running full pace inside the building on the southwest corner of Stagecoach Park at Kansas City Road and Ridgeview Road, but the structure looks nearly finished from the outside. And a walk-through this week offered a glimpse of what residents can expect from the $28.5 million project.
Workers in hard hats meticulously glued tiles onto pools in the aquatics area. Stacks of flooring sat in several rooms. Clear plastic tarp draped over various walls.
“I was here a week or so ago and there already has been so much progress made,” Nichole Asquith, marketing manager for Olathe Parks and Recreation, said as she walked around the site Wednesday afternoon. “It’s amazing.”
Even the membership rolls are starting to form, she said. The building is scheduled to open on July 1, but charter members will be able to get in earlier if it’s finished sooner.
The city’s interest in building a community center began decades ago, but it wasn’t until 2007 that community focus groups met to start talking about what, specifically, residents wanted.
The result is now set in stone.
The 72,000-square-foot facility will feature a large gym with three basketball courts, a children’s play area, a party room, community room, fitness classrooms, exercise equipment, a track, and even an Olathe Library kiosk for patrons to borrow and return books.
But the aquatics area will probably be the big draw.
The Natatorium will have a splash area with sprays for young children, a lazy river, a small pool for swimming lessons and playing, and a 16-person hot tub. A large pool will feature diving boards, a rock climbing wall and two slides. There will even be simulated thunderstorms complete with rain, thunderous sounds and artificial lightning.
“Aquatics are an important part of community centers,” Asquith said. “We really wanted to bring a fun indoor operation to Olathe.”
The city hopes the community center will have something for all ages. It will allow the parks and recreation department to expand its program for older adults and include activities for children, such as dance lessons and arts and crafts.
“This new center will give us unlimited amount of possibilities,” Asquith said. “We have a phenomenally creative staff who is excited to create anything for everyone.”
The architectural inspiration for the community center was its picturesque setting. Designers worked to spare as many trees in Stagecoach Park as possible. The facility will incorporate the park into its theme as well through prairie-style design and large windows that bring in natural light and landscape views.
“The idea was to bring the outside in,” Asquith said. “We wanted people to feel part of the park.”
The city expects 400,000 visitors at the community center each year. Officials said it will operate through user fees and no general fund tax dollars will be used to support the building.
The city hopes the center will have a busy summer.
“It’s a place where a mom can drop her 5-year-old to a swim lesson, her 8-year-old to play basketball, and she can attend a yoga class,” Asquith said. “It’s about the family being together, but also being able to pursue their own interests at the same time.”