Change the name of Lawrence to Utopia, and all of a sudden building a new sports complex doesn't seem such a daunting task.
First, let's select a location, one equidistant from both public high schools. The land at the southeast corner of Bob Billings and Kasold, owned by Kansas University Endowment Association, happens to rest 2.4 miles from both Free State and Lawrence High.
Next, construct a complex that best would energize the sports scene in town. A 10,000-seat stadium with a track could be not only the site for a re-energized Kansas Relays, in which the urgency to land a seat would increase demand, but also for high school football. Build stands off one side of it to look down on the soccer field beneath. Lower the field at Memorial Stadium, remove the track, and add 2,000 high-dollar seats.
Already-overburdened taxpayers can't generate enough money to fund sufficiently such worthy causes as the WRAP program and the prompt filling of massive potholes, so Utopia must turn elsewhere to finance any part of such an aggressive undertaking. Time to get really creative. Once his tour of duty as athletic director at KU ends, KU and the city could hire Lew Perkins to join John Hadl as co-fundraisers for the project. Have both men work on a commission basis.
The next administration at KU, by working so closely with the city of Lawrence, wouldn't be saying that the school on the hill considers itself the University of Lawrence, but it also would quell fears that it's becoming the University of Johnson County.
No problem, right? That assumes KU and the Lawrence school board could work in perfect harmony, nobody would demand total control, and no parent from either high school would raise a stink because a closer measurement actually reveals that the site rests 2.39 miles from one school and 2.41 miles from the other, and therefore favors the closer school. Plus, a salamander might live somewhere on the property. Talk about a deal-breaker.
Back to reality.
Constructing a stop-gap football facility at each school in time for the 2008 season doesn't appear realistic. Signing on for another year at character-rich Haskell Stadium appears the only option. Haskell University, making a none-too-subtle statement by jacking the rent so severely, clearly no longer seems interested in continuing a relationship that in the past benefited all sides, so it's not a long-term answer.
The most likely resolution would involve the school district selling property it owns and using the money to construct a district stadium, probably at the long-discussed land at the southwest corner of where the K-10 bypass and Iowa Street meet.
In the interim, field turf could be installed at both high schools in time for use for football practice and soccer games.
Here's hoping the school district doesn't go forward on plans for a stadium until it can be done right, resulting in a venue that somehow says Lawrence. With apologies to the mother convinced not naming the complex after her precious son will cost him the college scholarship he so richly deserves and about which she so desperately needs to brag, calling it John Hadl Stadium would be a nice start toward that end.