Supporters of an effort to build new recreational facilities in Lawrence got a high-profile endorsement from Kansas University men's basketball coach Bill Self on Monday evening.
Self - one of about 25 people who attended a meeting of Partners for Lawrence Athletics and Youth - said Lawrence was trailing several communities in terms of the recreational facilities it had to offer.
"I don't get the impression that people in our community realize how poor some of our facilities are," said Self, who said that he knows some people make decisions about where to live based on recreational facilities. "I think it definitely stunts our growth by not being able to say we have facilities that stack up with anyone.
"We don't have to be the best, but we have to be in the game."
Self, though, stopped short of saying that he supported a proposed sales tax to pay for new recreational facilities and said he hadn't decided whether he would become actively involved in promoting the project to the community if it were placed on a ballot.
Self did say, however, that he thought the community would be more likely to support new recreation projects if they were tied in with school district functions and educational programs.
The meeting at Southwest Junior High School seemed to largely attract supporters of new recreational facilities. The PLAY committee, which includes residents and representatives from the city, county, school district and chamber of commerce, presented the results of a recent public survey on recreation needs.
Consultants are expected to use the survey results and other input to create a feasibility study that will examine whether new facilities should be built, existing facilities should be renovated and how the community should pay for it. The feasibility study should be done by late May.
Pat O'Toole, one of the consultants on the study and a Lawrence resident, said he thought one issue to explore was how the often the school district allowed its recreational facilities to be open to community use.
But Rick Gammill, director of special operations for the school district, said community members are sometimes misinformed about how often school district buildings are in use.
"I think the school district certainly has been a good neighbor to all parties involved," Gammill said. "Our buildings really are in use all the time. If we had more space, we certainly could be an even better neighbor."