An undated picture shows King Louie in Overland Park in its hey-day. The former skating rink and bowling alley was purchased by the county. Commissioners approved funding to shore-up the structure. It will eventually house a county museum. Photo courtesy of Johnson County

Danedri Thompson
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King Louie, the former bowling alley and skating rink now owned by Johnson County, is getting a bit of a face lift.
During a Dec. 13 board meeting, Johnson County commissioners approved a $915,000 contract for repairs to the building, located at 8788 Metcalf Avenue.
Joe Waters, county director of facilities, said the repairs will include asbestos abatement, demolition of some partitions and finishes, activation of utilities and fire protection system, establishment of minimal lighting and conditioning of the space and securing the building exterior.
Commissioners will be asked to approve a second contract for partial roof replacement at a future meeting.
The county recently purchased the King Louie facility with plans to re-located the county museum there. The purchase was not without controversy.
County Chair Ed Eilert explained some of the history behind the $2.5 million purchase of the building during the meeting.
About 10 years ago, Eilert said a county study determined there was a need for a new museum building. Later, when the museum flooded in 2007, county officials decided not to spend additional money on that structure in Shawnee. In 2009, museum officials requested $30 million to build a new museum. Commissioners said no and suggested museum officials begin looking for existing property that could be purchased instead.
King Louie was singled out as a possibility, but the price – at $3.5 million – was deemed too high. However, when the price dropped to $2.5 million, county officials offered $2 million to secure the building.
“Following due diligence, an additional $50,000 price reduction was identified and agreed upon,” Eilert said.
The contract commissioners approved on Dec. 13 does not ready the building for occupancy. Waters estimated it would cost more than $4 million to make the building “white box” ready. He estimated it would require an additional $4 million to move the existing museum into the space.
“We purchased property with the idea that there was more space there than the museum needs,” Eilert said. Other county services may also one day use the space at King Louie.
Commissioner Michael Ashcraft voted against the contract to upgrade the building.
“What I’m struggling with a little bit is the assessment of our need to acquire new property,” Ashcraft said. “…Is this the best use of that our existing resources?”
He said the master facility study a decade ago that suggested the county purchase additional property was based on assumptions of what future growth would be.
“We are down over 500 employees or will be by 2014,” Ashcraft said.
Commissioner Calvin Hayden, who represents Gardner and Edgerton on the board, said the King Louie purchase for the museum cost the county less than one-third of what the museum requested. If there is room to spare in the King Louie building, he said it could eventually pay for itself. Additionally, he said the county is planning to sell some of its old properties.
“That’s got to knock a million off the tab at least,” Hayden said. “I think this is a good alternative and it’s saving the taxpayers money in the long run. It’s a win-win-win.”
In other business, commissioners:
• approved the renewal of a variety of liability insurance policies for $1.2 million.
• approved a $4.7 million contract with Grimm Construction Company to construct solids dewatering improvement project at the Douglas L. Smith Middle Basin Wastewater Treatment Plant.