Lawrence Memorial Hospital is considering opening a wellness center in northwest Lawrence that would be part of a proposed $24 million, 160,000-square-foot recreation center.
President and CEO Gene Meyer told the board on Wednesday that the hospital has been approached by city leaders and developer Thomas Fritzel about being involved in the project, which will be on the northwest corners of Sixth Street and the South Lawrence Trafficway. The project’s plans also call for an outdoor track and field stadium and a soccer field that would be operated by Kansas University.
“We felt that if the facility was going to contain some sort of a commitment to wellness that we wanted to be the ones involved,” he said.
Karen Shumate, chief operating officer, gave a preliminary report about what kinds of services the wellness center might offer if it were to move forward with a partnership. They included:
• Physical, occupational and speech therapy services.
• Diet and exercise classes.
• One-on-one wellness coaching.
• Sports performance enhancement programs.
Shumate said they would like to target two populations: older adults and pediatrics. With the older adults, they would focus on screenings such as bone density tests and helping those with chronic conditions.
In pediatrics, they would be addressing children who may have an illness or disorder that’s affecting their ability to live a healthy lifestyle. They also would like to help those who are struggling with weight through programs that address diet, fitness and emotional support.
“The problems with kids having weight problems is becoming more and more prevalent in our community as in every community,” she said.
The report provided a look at how the hospital might use the proposed 7,000-square-foot space:
• Two large multipurpose rooms for fitness classes.
• Two smaller meeting rooms for educational classes, screening clinics and a resource area.
• A physical therapy clinic with a section devoted to pediatric patients.
• Open space for sports performance class work.
• Food court area.
• Locker room and showers.
• Small reception area.
“This is just a concept,” she told the board. “It’s very preliminary."
A few board members raised concerns and questions after hearing the report. Dr. Lee Reussner questioned whether the recreation center would be primarily used by athletes or for the general public. Rob Chestnut wondered if the location really fit the populations that the hospital was trying to reach with its wellness efforts. He asked hospital administrators to consider other locations for a wellness center as well.
Meanwhile, others wondered if LMH didn’t provide a wellness center at the site, would the developers approach someone else?
Meyer said the developers have not given him a deadline for committing to the project. He also was uncertain if the hospital would own or lease the space. The hospital is currently putting together a report that would look at the upfront and operational costs of the wellness center. In the meantime, the hospital will continue to gather input from the community, its employees and patients.
A new report on the wellness center project will be presented during the next board meeting, which is scheduled for Aug. 15.
“A partnership with the city and with the athletic department is something that we would always want to try to achieve if it makes strategic and financial sense for us,” Meyer said.