City votes to close Osage Recreation Center

A cost-cutting proposal that includes closing Osage Recreation Center has been adopted by the Wichita City Council.

Osage, 2121 W. 31st St. South, was targeted because of low program participation, according to a city document.

The closing was part of a plan recommended by city staff to restructure the park and recreation department. In August, the City Council told the department to cut $1 million out of its budget.

Under the proposal, management at Boston Recreation Center, 6655 E. Zimmerly, will be outsourced and 12 department positions will be eliminated.

The plan is expected to save $877,354, most of that coming from eliminated positions.

It cost $75,000 annually to operate Osage, excluding salaries of one full-time employee and some part-timers.

The proposal called for Osage to shut down by Dec. 31, but Park and Recreation director Doug Kupper said that could be delayed up to 10 weeks into 2011 because of prior program scheduling at the center.

The city plans to seek a community-minded nonprofit or business to operate the building.

"We don't have any preconceived (ideas) of what that may be," Kupper said.

The city will continue to operate the outside amenities, such as the ball diamonds, interactive fountain and tennis court. The new manager would be responsible for utilities and maintaining the building, Kupper said.

Whether the Osage building would be sold or leased would be determined after proposals are received, City Manager Robert Layton said in an e-mail.

In 2009, only 870 people used Osage for city-sponsored programs and about 6,400 used the facility as a rental, according to research conducted by Wichita State University's Hugo Wall School of Urban and Public Affairs.

At the Boston center, the city hopes to save nearly $100,000 in salaries by outsourcing management of most of the recreational activities on a trial basis.

The new manager could be either a nonprofit or a private business.

"We're going to try to find a partner to provide the lion's share of activities, to see if they can make a go of it better than we have," Kupper said.

The plan would actually eliminate 14 positions department wide. But the net total would be 12 because two spots would be created — one for marketing and the other a business analyst.