Johnson County buys former King Louie ice rink site for museum

The old King Louie West ice rink on Metcalf Avenue in Overland Park, with its 1960s sweep and flair, seems a natural to become a National Museum of Suburbia.

The Johnson County Commission has agreed to buy the shuttered building for $2 million and to spend $1.6 million to stabilize it until it can be renovated and become the new home of the Johnson County Museum. A long-range plan envisions a shrine to suburbia and a Suburban Policy Forum.

“It’s a significant, iconic building,” said Mindi Love, director of the Johnson County Museum of History Department. “It’s on the Metcalf corridor, which has a long suburban history, and it’s very visible.”

The building also has large spaces without support columns and a 25-foot-tall ceiling, which will work well for a museum.

The acquisition will solve space needs for the museum, currently at 6305 Lackman Road in Shawnee. And it is welcome news for Overland Park, which currently has an empty property at a prime location at 8788 Metcalf Ave.

“Any vacant building in the city is not desirable,” said city spokesman Sean Reilly, “so anytime there is a potential occupant that can effectively use the building, that’s great.”

The county’s purchase from Western Development Co. Inc. includes about 70,000 square feet of space and the 5.6-acre site. The deal is set to close Dec. 30.

The structure was built in the 1960s. The ice skating rink, later known as AMF Ice Chateau, closed in 2007 and a bowling alley closed in 2009.

The 20,000-square foot building that now houses the Johnson County Museum was built in 1927 and is considered crowded. Flood damage has made part of it unsuitable for public use.

The museum’s master plan to add room and grow into a national museum in phases can be viewed at www.jocomuseum.org

Love said the museum also plans to move its 1950s All-Electric House to the new location. Officials will submit renovation options for the former ice rink and cost estimates to the county commission early next year. If a plan is approved, work could begin in 2013. County officials are expected to work with Overland Park, which has its own development plan for the corridor.

“As part of Vision Metcalf we’re always looking to increase attractions and provide variety,” Reilly said, “and the museum certainly does both.”