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West Lafayette To Study Indoor Recreation Center Viability

Charlotte Tuggle

West Lafayette officials believe the city has the money to build an indoor recreation center in Cumberland Park, but say they won’t sign off on the idea until it’s garnered enough community support.

A few dozen residents gave input at two Tuesday open houses. The goal was two-fold: ask whether residents want a rec center and gauge what amenities it’d need so people would buy memberships, says redevelopment commission chair Larry Oates.

“You’ve heard of Build-A-Bear, at the malls and stuff – this is our Build-A-Rec Center program,” Oates says.

City officials, along with the architecture firm Perkins+Will, had attendees fill out a list of what they wanted in the center. Sample items included a few pools, a game room and multi-use basketball courts – each with their own hypothetical price tag to be deducted from a $25 million budget.

Longtime resident Cathy Nakajima says – like most who attended the meetings -- she’s in favor of items that have a broad, all-ages appeal.

“I would sure love to be swimming this afternoon, looking up at the sky and dreaming of some lovely day in summer,” she says.

And for some residents, the meeting was an opportunity to plant a seed for what they didn’t see enough of in West Lafayette. Take Whitney Kasper, a Lafayette Roller Derby athlete, for example. She says it’s hard for her team to find available space for practice.

“That is definitely not something they were considering,” Kasper says. “Nobody, I guess, even talked to them about skate parks or anything like that. That was not on their radar at all.”

The derby team members say the reception of their message was ‘varied,’ but they remain optimistic .

City Development Director Erik Carlson says the city isn’t allowed to use tax increment financing funds on operational costs, so it would be up to membership fees to maintain the center.

“And if it determines we’re not going to be able to do that, then we’re not going to be able to do that,” Carlson says. “And then we’ll decide to scrap the project, but we’re hoping that won’t be the case.”

Resident John Whelan supports the idea, but says he wants to see the results of the study before any ground is broken.

“This aquatic center, it’s a good idea. We’ll have to see as far as the viability of it – from a taxpayer’s point of view, but again it’s a great idea,” Whalen says. “We’ll just see what happens.”

More input sessions are set to be held mid-March, directly following Perkins+Will’s draft recommendations to the redevelopment commission.

Comments can also be left at the project’s website, reccenterwl.com.