Lawrence school district administrators have had talks with Kansas University basketball coach Bill Self's Assists Foundation about developing a health and wellness campus that could also include a school district sports facility.
"There is an interest on their part in pursuing conversations relevant to that end," Lawrence Superintendent Randy Weseman said.
Weseman and school board member Scott Morgan mentioned it during Monday night's discussion of improving the district's outdoor athletic facilities.
Board members directed administrators to continue exploring options for possible partnerships.
"That's not binding us to anything, but just to find out what it's going to cost and to maximize our resources," Morgan said.
Self and his family established the foundation to promote health and wellness among young people, including raising funds to help develop the campus in the greater Lawrence/Kansas City area.
It could be part of the third and final phase of a plan to improve athletic facilities in the district. Weseman has proposed trying to attack several district projects without seeking a bond issue or tax increase. The plan instead relies on a financing tool that rewards using more energy-efficient materials.
"Not only can we improve things, but we can do it in a way that's going to decrease our energy consumption in the future," Weseman said.
Monday night, board members hired a engineering company, Johnson Controls Inc., to determine which projects would qualify. Its audit would include proposed projects to improve athletic fields at both high schools and an $11 million backlog of maintenance projects at elementary schools.
Administrators are looking at using the financing tool to pay for projects like installing artificial turf because it would save on water, mowing and fertilizing.
Weseman has unveiled plans to improve practice and competition facilities at each high school, including adding fields at Lawrence High School. Weseman said Monday night that he anticipated several projects on the list to be completed or under way in the next 18 months.
Administrators have estimated it would cost $2.8 million to add artificial turf, bleachers and restrooms to the current track sites at each high school to allow for practice and for football and soccer competition, possibly until a district facility is built.
The two schools play home football games at Haskell Stadium, and it will cost the district $5,000 per game next year. Administrators and board members have said it could be possible each high school football team could be playing home games on their campus sometime late this fall season after likely starting the year at Haskell.
The projects also would significantly add turf fields, including softball and baseball, to the LHS campus to keep students from having to drive across town for baseball, softball and soccer practice.
Sven Alstrom, a Lawrence architect who owns a home south of LHS, said he didn't object to the field proposals but said the project needs to include a properly engineered drainage system.
Shelley Bock, a Lawrence attorney and longtime soccer official, said athletic field improvements were critical.
"It has to be done if this community is going to provide safe and reasonable facilities for its students," Bock said.