Archive for Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Funding for recreation study promised

Up to $25,000 is committed to examine sports facilities needs

January 10, 2006


The campaign to figure out how to keep pace with Lawrence's ever-growing need for sporting facilities found its "lead dog" Monday.

School board members agreed to pay 40 percent of the costs of a feasibility study aimed at assessing the shortage and proposing both solutions and funding packages.

The 40-percent figure is not to exceed $25,000.

Recent efforts to win similar endorsements from county and city officials have fallen short of proponents' expectations.

"We've been floundering a bit," said Scott Morgan, a member of Partners for Lawrence Athletics and Youth.

Either the city, county or school board, he said, "need to step up."

"If there needs to be a lead dog, I'm willing to have the school board be that dog," said board member Linda Robinson.

As proposed, the feasibility study is expected to cost about $55,000.

Plans call for pressing city and county officials for similar commitments during a Feb. 8 summit.

PLAY spokeswoman Bonnie Lowe said she hoped the city also would agree to pay 40 percent of the study's costs, and that the county, Lawrence Chamber of Commerce and private benefactors would divide the remaining 20 percent.

Though the school board members were unanimous in their show of support, they denied Lowe and Morgan's call for defining the study before the Feb. 8 meeting.

Several board members said they worried the need for facilities would be seen as a school problem rather than a community problem.

"It has to be a partnership," said board president Leonard Ortiz.

"I'm willing to invest if the others step forward," said board member Craig Grant.

In the past, Lowe has suggested building a complex similar to Hummer Sports Park in Topeka, which has a stadium and facilities for football, track, baseball, softball, soccer and swimming. It cost $17.5 million.

Morgan said Lawrence high schools are hamstrung because neither school has its own football field, and instead of having two baseball fields, they have one; instead of two soccer fields, they have one.

About 20 parents, most of them accompanied by their school-age sons or daughters, attended the meeting in a show of support.

"I'm very encouraged by what happened here tonight," Morgan said afterward.

But Superintendent Randy Weseman warned that as the proposal matures and the possibility of a tax increase becomes likely, it's sure to meet resistance.

"Folks, it's a painstaking process," Weseman said, referring to PLAY's need to build consensus. "Compromise is a big part of getting things done in Lawrence."

PLAY's proposal comes on the heels of voters last year approving to spend $63 million on a districtwide technology upgrade, building renovations, additions and new construction.


Jamesaust 11 years, 11 months ago

"Several board members said they worried the need for facilities would be seen as a school problem rather than a community problem...About 20 parents, most of them accompanied by their school-age sons or daughters, attended the meeting in a show of support."

And there is significant support from those without school-age children?

Lumping in some community 'frosting' doesn't transform a "school problem" cupcake into something other than a cupcake. The Lawrence School District should not be simultaneously wringing more money out of Topeka while they are shifting recreation priorities to the City.

Shelley Bock 11 years, 11 months ago

Yes, there are supporters of developing the community who are not parents of school-age children.

Richard Heckler 11 years, 11 months ago

The Topeka school district appears to be the owner of the Hummer Sports Park. According to a recent story in the Capital Journal it has some logistic problems regarding scheduling of events and concessions.

  1. Why can't locker rooms be constructed at Free State and both high schools use the facilities for varsity events?

  2. We have plenty of park space for ball diamonds,volley ball,horse shoes, tennis etc etc. Perhaps making better use of existing taxpayer property could be the key? including public school property?

  3. Do we need to compete with larger cities that house a much larger population and healthier tax base?

  4. Is this intended to be a money making proposition?

Richard Heckler 11 years, 11 months ago

At these high dollar sports complex operations we might find $5.00 hot dogs and $3.00 cokes,pepsi or sprites.

Who will manage concessions and at what profit margin shall they operate?

What about ticket sales and maintenance etc.etc.?

Quality control?

Richard Heckler 11 years, 11 months ago

Just because I don't want to spend $20,000,000 or more on an extravagant sports facility is no indication that I do not want more actitivity space for Lawrence children. Quite the contrary. Large facilities seem to be not used most of the time which means they do not pay for themselves. Do kids need an extravagant sports facility to succeed and have

As I have stated previously with additional activities based in new neighborhoods more children could participate due in large part to logistics. When I was growing up we were able to walk or bike to many sorts of activities. I would rather spend $20,000,000 on an elementary school and two new neighborhood rec centers. This is what keeps neighborhoods strong.

I am not particularly concerned about competing with JOCO or Topeka. There is only so much to go around. Lawrence has many updated rec centers and parks at our disposal.

Amy Bartle 11 years, 11 months ago

They need to consider facilities for more than just sports - what about art activities, drama, and dance? The only dance options this town has are very expensive at only a few studios, or very low end dance options at parks and rec. Lawrence Arts Center has some good dance options, but they are not appealing to the tween or junior high kid. I hope they have an open mind when doing this study to consider many forms of recreation - not just SPORTS.

Jamesaust 11 years, 11 months ago

I'm sorry but I don't know what "developing the community" is supposed to mean. It must mean something more than building roads, roundabouts, providing for police, firemen, teachers, textbooks, public parks, homeless shelters, etc., etc., etc. ad nauseum.

If it is a proxy for "being interested enough in lifestyle options to put one's own hard-earned money down to purchase such services" then I submit that the failure of private providers to discover these hidden masses is proof positive that they do not exist in sufficient numbers.

Thus, a minority of supporters must use the sheriff's gun to steal this money out of private pockets.

A mechanism exists already for providing recreation activities for oneself or one's children - one's own pocketbook. We've already had a "vote" on this issue and the public has given a thumb's down verdict.

Richard Heckler 11 years, 11 months ago

Observation tells me that when it comes to sports programs Lawrence,Kansas has never short changed it's children.

Is this the direction stake holders are going?

Regarded as one of the finest softball complexes in the Midwest, the 70-acre Mid-America Sports Complex is located at 20000 Johnson Drive in Shawnee. Built in 1991 by private owners, the property was acquired by the Johnson County Park and Recreation District in 1994 through the sale of revenue bonds. The complex frequently hosts national and regional tournaments and is complemented by the District's operation of the nearby Mid-America West Sports Complex (MAWSC) located at 20200 Johnson Drive.

Sounds like very stiff competition with an area that offers tons of fine dining and hotel/motel accomodations for further support.

More and more this project is definitely a private venture capital/risk project.

Richard Heckler 11 years, 11 months ago

One more thing I'm all for additional school funding however throwing $25,000 into a feasibility study when next years school budget funding has yet to be discussed in Topeka is a bit questionable.

Private money for this feasibility study not public school tax dollars.

Legend 11 years, 11 months ago

This is a credible business project for Lawrence and Douglas County. It is not an appealing project for private investors. Why? The project itself will likely only "pay for itself". As a business person, I won't invest my money just to get it back. I want a profit.

The "profit" in this case goes to other business owners in Lawrence and its citizens. Large state, regional and national tournaments are hosted at a facility such as the one proposed. The families that come stay in our hotels, eat in our restaurants and shop in our stores. Remember last summer when the girls softball tourney was in town? You couldn't go anywhere without seeing them spending money. This is one residual benefit of building such a facility.

The other benefit is that our own kids will finally have adequate facilities at their disposal. Those that make the argument that such facilities already exist clearly haven't tried to schedule a field or gym in Lawrence. With this project, perhaps our families won't take their kids (and their money) to Topeka and Olathe to play.

My son is old enough that he will not directly benefit from this project before its completion. I'm thinking big picture for Lawrence/Douglas County and not about the $5-10/year it may cost me. We need the study, but, bottom line: This is good for Lawrence/Douglas County.

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