A report prepared for the Kansas Department of Commerce determines that Clinton Lake west of Lawrence has considerable potential for additional recreation, resort and residential development.
Parts of the report paint a tantalizing picture of a resort hotel and spa that would attract conventions and tourists. But other parts might make local residents wonder whether anyone from the consulting firm that prepared the report had ever left their offices in Maryland and California to get a realistic view of the Lawrence landscape.
The study accurately notes that "Lawrence lacks a competitive meeting space despite annual visitation over 725,000." The lack of convention space is not news to Lawrence residents, but the study shows the market would support only a 150-room resort hotel at Clinton Lake. That's smaller than the Lawrence Holidome.
The study also sees support for a 40-guest spa resort. However, no potential sites for either the spa or hotel are within a half-mile of an existing water line. Most of the sites also were in areas with limited suitability for septic systems, meaning that city sewer lines would have to be extended to serve them - probably at city expense. More on that later.
Perhaps the most nonsensical recommendation in the report is the contention that Clinton Lake could support another 18-hole golf course. More than one person at Wednesday's public meeting at the Lawrence Public Library was puzzling over the idea that the lake needed another golf course in addition to the financially struggling, city-owned Eagle Bend Golf Course.
The full report, available at the Kansas Water Office Web site (www.kwo.org), details the number-crunching that led to the golf course conclusion. The way they figure it, Eagle Bend, Alvamar, Lawrence Country Club and the Orchards offer a total of 90 holes of golf. That's one 18-hole golf course for every 19,000 people who live within a 25-mile radius, well above the state average of 14,817 people per 18 holes. A new 18-hole golf course would bring that down to 18,373 per 18 holes, which still is well above the state average.
What is it they say about "lies, damn lies and statistics"? Eagle Bend has never broken even, and other courses reportedly are struggling financially. In the real world, it seems ridiculous to build another 18 holes of golf at Clinton Lake with or without an accompanying hotel.
In 2001, a group of developers proposed a 150-room hotel and conference center for Clinton Lake at a cost of about $20 million. That price tag presumably would be much higher now, but even at that time, the developer was asking for a local (public) investment of about $5 million to build the conference center and extend water and sewer services to the proposed site in Clinton State Park.
It's unlikely that any developer would undertake such a project now without a similar investment, adjusted upward for inflation and increased construction costs. Given the city's other infrastructure needs, it's hard to justify such an expenditure.
A resort at Clinton Lake has some attraction, and perhaps some developer will come up with a proposal that makes practical and financial sense. But it's easy to see why local residents had a negative initial reaction to the state study.