In the competition to develop city-owned land next to the Activity and Recreation Center, better known as the ARC, the Columbia Youth Basketball Association and a partner group have a definite home-court advantage.
The city’s Parks and Recreation Commission, which is holding a public hearing on the four proposals on Aug. 17, endorsed the project proposed by the CYBA and Rising Stars Sports Association after its initial review presented to the City Council.
But Parks and Recreation Director Mike Hood stressed that the endorsement was only the first step and that the decision would eventually boil down to what the community wants.
“The bottom line is that we do think that there is probably room out there for two additional facilities, and each of the proposals on their own have merit,” Hood said. “They are all good ideas. But we certainly can’t put all four of them out there, so you have to look at the strengths and weaknesses, pros and cons, and come to a conclusion as to which might be the most feasible.”
The group known as PRIDE, which stands for Positive Regional Impact Diversified Enterprise, has proposed building a three-story community center for $9 million. The center would have 10 basketball courts along with classrooms, meeting rooms and offices for civic organizations. The plan also includes a partnership with the University of Missouri.
The CYBA-RSSA’s proposed building project is half that big and one-third of the cost.
The groups plan to finance the building privately, and, once built, the facility would be given to the city to own and operate. The group is already working with a professional fundraiser, Jeffrey Byrne and Associates of Kansas City, to develop a fund-raising drive that would be launched if the city approves its plan.
“We consider our proposal to be the most feasible proposal, just based on the cost of the project and also the projected revenues of it,” said Wendell Coonce, CYBA president. “Our proposal is more realistic. It’s going to be tough to raise money, regardless of whose proposal it is, but when you’re comparing $3 million to $9 million, in terms of fund-raising, it’s much more realistic and doable, we think.”
The CYBA-RSSA plan calls for a multi-use facility that would serve existing Parks and Recreation programs including basketball, volleyball and martial arts—a sort of indoor Cosmo Park, according to its proponents—and would be completely city-owned and operated. It would provide a central site for statewide basketball tournaments, and it could provide another venue for the Show-Me State Games, Coonce said.
The building’s layout would create eight new basketball courts, with four on each side of the administrative rooms in the middle. The 50-50 split arrangement of the rooms would allow two groups to use the facility simultaneously; for instance, a volleyball tournament might be held on one side while a business exposition could take place on the other side.
“We’re the only ones not asking the city to give us anything; ours is a $3 million-plus gift to the city,” said Dean Berry, co-founder of CYBA.
Driving CYBA’s proposal is a desperate need for gym space, Berry said. Building such a basketball facility would allow the city to free up court space in the Armory facility downtown. The additional space could be used for community recreation programs for youths instead of the adult league play that takes up Armory courts on most weekday evenings, Hood said. It would also allow Parks and Recreation employees to relocate to the new facility, freeing up more Armory office space.
This fall, CYBA plans to offer basketball for grades four through 12.
CYBA-RSSA’s proposal focuses on sports, and does not offer the work force development component present in the PRIDE plan. However, a major part of RSSA’s mission is to promote strong academics, using sports and games as a reward, according to Ray Magruder, a co-founder of RSSA and, at the same time, a board member of PRIDE.
He said PRIDE’s shift away from its original mission of creating a community center for the First Ward toward building a facility next to the ARC might be a mistake.
“I believe and confide in both organizations,” Magruder said. “I just think they both need to stay on track to what their original mission statements are. The philosophy of the PRIDE organization has changed tremendously; it was a resource center for youth that provides a service to kids, and the niche was to get them in by having a small portion of the building be for athletics. The two concepts are totally different. PRIDE’s concept is a resource for the community; CYBA is a resource as well, but an athletic resource, not a community resource.”
The CYBA representatives said their competitor’s new vision might have led PRIDE to overreach with its proposal.
“I think PRIDE’s proposal, what they’re trying to do, is very worthy, but I think they should have stuck to their original idea,” Berry said.
A big part of the decision to endorse the CYBA-RSSA proposal came from analysis of the operating costs associated with the proposals, Hood said. Before the ARC was built, Parks and Recreation estimated that the facility’s cash flow for operating expenses would be between 92 and 94 percent; actual cash flow has been better than that. A similar study of the additional costs associated with the CYBA-RSSA proposal estimated the recovery of additional operating costs at 98 percent, he said.
“A concern that we looked at with the PRIDE is that their operational budget that they proposed for an 119,000 square-foot facility was in the $300,000 range,” Hood said. “Our current operational budget for the ARC is $1.5 million, and we’re talking about a bigger facility than the ARC. Admittedly, their facility wouldn’t have a pool, and we have an aquatics area, which is a very expensive area to operate, but it just seems like that’s a very, very minimal budget for operations for that large a facility. And then, one of the things they expressed was that they expected to raise a lot of that money for operations out of grants.”
“Grants don’t usually last 40 years, but buildings do,” Berry said. “At some point, I feel like taxpayers are going to be picking up the tab there.”
Another more mundane reason for the decision to endorse the CYBA-RSSA proposal was parking, Hood said. Although there may be room for two more facilities on the site, a PRIDE building that is twice the size of its competitor and even 40 percent larger than the ARC, may require more parking spaces than the property can provide.