Over the years my wife, Karen, and I have tried very hard to support Lawrence, Lecompton and Douglas County in every way possible. This is our home, it has been good to us and we love it. As part of our efforts to give something back to the community, we have even made small investments in some local businesses. We believe that one of the great strengths of our community is the positive, symbiotic relationship between Kansas University and the greater community and that the economic prosperity of the community is crucial to KU's success.
In this light, I feel it is necessary to express my great disappointment in the KU Athletic Association's decision to move the KU-MU game to Arrowhead Stadium. In so doing, it takes away substantial revenues from local hotels, restaurants and retail merchants, revenues they cannot afford to lose.
Douglas County's economy is closely tied to the university. Even so, our economy is not as strong as it ought to be. Business start-ups often fail. One need only look at the frequent vacancies on Massachusetts Street to understand this.
Our business community depends on drawing customers from outside Douglas County. Visitors from Johnson County and greater Kansas City are an essential element in the success of local merchants. The most important attraction for these visitors to our community are KU sporting events. To take one of the major such events elsewhere does great damage to the community. Why is this necessary?
I think that the KU Athletic Association should rethink this decision and, particularly, the justification for it. If the primary justification for the move is the potential for increased revenues, then I think that the KUAA must reconsider.
Increasingly, people in Kansas who are interested in KU and KU sports are coming to believe that the KUAA is no longer either a nonprofit activity or one with much, if any, educational purpose. By moving the game off campus, KUAA not only deprives the local community of potential business revenues but also makes it more difficult for many students to attend the game. The fact that the Legislature has told the university to remove athletic facility repairs from its list of funding requests is a clear signal that some in the Legislature no longer regard KU athletics as an integral part of the university and worthy of taxpayer support.
If KUAA continues on the path of making revenue enhancement its primary goal, it exposes itself to renewed scrutiny and challenges to its favored tax status among other things. If this were to happen, the damage to KU will long outlast those who are now making these decisions.
Indeed, KU as a whole must recognize that its future success depends on the success of the greater community in which it is located and in which its faculty, staff and administrators live.
If we as a university do not fully embrace our community, then not only will the future prosperity of Lawrence and Douglas County be at risk, but also so will the future of KU. It is time for all of us who care about our community to make it clear to KUAA that these decisions are not acceptable.