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.
- City likes sports plan (12-21-05)
- 6News video: Sports complex on city waiting list
- County wants city, schools to take lead on sports complex (12-15-05)
- Sports park pitched to city, county (12-14-05)
- On the street: Do you think Lawrence needs another recreation center for indoor and outdoor sports? (12-14-05)
- Tittrington: This, Topeka did right (9-29-05)
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.