Archive for Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Field work ahead

School, foundation leaders plan ways to build ‘win-win’ city sports complex

May 14, 2008


New sports complexes headed for Lawrence

Lawrence schools get the ball rolling on a new sports complexes. Now they're looking to team up with Bill Self and his foundation. Enlarge video

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What effect will Bill Self's involvement in an effort to improve Lawrence's athletic and wellness facilities have on getting a project done?

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Athletic Facility Plans

NOWThe Lawrence school district currently rents Haskell Stadium per game to play both Lawrence High and Free State football games.¢ Cost: This fall, Haskell will charge $5,000 per football game, an increase of $2,000 from last year.

SOONA financing tool could help pay for artificial turf fields with bleachers at each high school this fall, bundled with other projects.¢ Cost: Estimated $2.8 million to upgrade the fields and about $10.9 million for other athletic projects.

FUTUREThe district might plan ahead for an athletic and wellness complex. Talks have begun with members of Bill Self's Assists Foundation.¢ Cost: No firm plan is in place, but a past estimate is $21 million without land.

Both sides say it's a chance to meet two major needs - more athletic venues in Lawrence and a campus to promote child wellness.

Kansas University basketball coach Bill Self's Assists Foundation and the Lawrence school district have had early talks about developing a sports complex.

"I think his desire is to make it happen in Lawrence, and I think because of the school district's interest in the facilities that they need, this could be a win-win for the kids particularly, but for the foundation and for the city of Lawrence," said Miles Schnaer, owner of Crown Automotive and a member of Self's Assists Foundation board.

But foundation members and school district leaders acknowledge they have a long way to go. No dollar figures have been thrown out, but past studies estimated $18 million to $21 million for a complex with stadiums and fields for several sports.

Leaders from both organizations say the district and foundation complement each other.

"The school district is by far the most viable player based on our conversations, and they can make this happen sooner than anybody else and they have the need to make it happen faster than anybody else," said Laura Dixon, the Assists Foundation's executive director.

Schnaer said Tuesday the foundation aims to raise $1 million through a fundraising event in June. School board members have asked administrators to explore what other private and public partnerships would be interested.

"That's really the quickest way to get big-picture, high-profile projects done," said Lawrence Superintendent Randy Weseman.

School district leaders are working on a short-term plan to improve outdoor sports fields at both high schools and elementary school buildings. To make a dent in that $20 million list of requests, instead of a bond issue or tax increase, the district would rely on a financing tool that rewards using energy-efficient material, such as artificial turf, and also not paying rent and transportation costs to use Haskell Stadium and other fields.

On top of those projects, the next step of Weseman's plan involves working toward building a district facility over time.

Foundation members said Self in the meantime could help move fundraising along in the long term for a wellness and athletic complex.

"Our vision would be that kids all over our community, all over town have access to these types of facilities year-round, and at the heart of these facilities are the wellness components that have the long-term impacts on their lives," Self said in a statement through the foundation.

More specifics about what the complex could include and where it would be will be determined later, Weseman said. Other area communities have capitalized on private partnerships to develop athletic complexes, he said.

Weseman told board members Monday to envision "a system planned and designed to get you moving and keep you healthy as well as provide a quality competition and special-event venue for the school district and community."

Board member Rich Minder said he had heard concerns before that a district complex would only benefit athletes and their parents.

"This doesn't sound like the vision that would lead to that, but more one of community-wide wellness. : I can support moving forward with exploring those options in that context," Minder said.

Assists Fundraiser

Kansas University basketball coach Bill Self will play host to the inaugural Bill's Basketball Boogie fundraiser June 7 at the Kansas Speedway - near Interstates 435 and 70 in Kansas City, Kan. - to raise money for health and wellness facilities in the area.

More information and ticket order forms are available at

Who is involved?

Randy Weseman, Superintendent Lawrence schoolsHe and administrators have developed a three-phase plan to retire projects and work toward a district complex.

Scott Morgan, Lawrence school board memberHe has asked administrators to see what kinds of private and public partnerships would be available for a district complex.

Bill Self, Kansas University basketball coachSelf and his family have started the Assists Foundation to raise money for athletic-oriented health and wellness facilities.

Miles Schnaer, Assists Foundation boardThe Crown Automotive owner has said the foundation hopes to raise $1 million at an event in June.


Take_a_letter_Maria 9 years, 10 months ago

Jack when was the last time you paid to see a band or orchestra performance was the question.I too attended West's Spring Show as well as Encore at FSHS and Showtime at LHS. I was glad to pay for each one of these performances.In addition to these, I have been to Free State's year-end vocal music and orchestra programs within the last two weeks. I didn't pay any admission for those performances. I also didn't pay to go to the combined band performance at West the week before their Spring show.I will answer the question of when I last paid to see the band perform, I attended a marching competition last fall that I paid admission to, but that didn't benefit either LHS or FSHS. In fact the schools had to pay in order to participate.Yes, all of these activities could use some additional funding, but that doesn't mean the district shouldn't take advantage of some outside help with a sports project when it presents itself. PLAY is not going backdoor on anyone. They went straight to the city commission and the school board when they were first formed. It took about a year, some major embarrassment this past fall playing in a mud pit at Haskell, and a raise in the per use rate for the district to realize that there could be a better solution out there. Haskell Stadium, Ice Field, YSI and the soccer and baseball fields at FSHS are all substandard. It's something that, like it or not, is inevitable so why not take whatever help you can get?

Janet Lowther 9 years, 10 months ago

I don't mind if the sports loons build a new stadium, just don't ask me to pay for it!If they can raise the $20,000,000 or thereabouts in private money to build their dream facility, more power to 'em, but you won't find me on their list of donors.I figure that when the schools are having a budget crunch, the best place to cut is in football and basketball, 'cause voluntary donations are more apt to cover the cuts than anywhere else.Why is it that the band and orchestra programs need to have regular fundraising drives, but I've never heard of a bake sale for football? I figure that means that either football is getting too much of a tax subsidy, or music isn't getting enough!

flyin_squirrel 9 years, 10 months ago

Merrill,Ever hear the saying "It is better to be quiet and let people assume you are stupid than open your mouth and remove all doubt"...

jumpin_catfish 9 years, 10 months ago

This will end up costing the tax payers it always does. Their hand is reaching toward your wallet and there is little we can do about it. Wait see!

Richard Heckler 9 years, 10 months ago

I'm all for expanding tourism through existing resources not with new multi million dollar structures and certainly not attached to the USD 497 budget.

FrankDrebin 9 years, 10 months ago

Merrill, why don't we all just lock ourselves in a plastic bubble? That would be the answer to all your concerns about people's health.

Richard Heckler 9 years, 10 months ago

"However, most, if not all, of that cost can be financed using money the district will save on watering, mowing and fertilizing the existing natural turf." That is not being realistic.Where is the money to build the facility is the first place?What about the mercury health risks associated with bogus turf?Then again what about the carcinogenic risks from fertilizers and herbicides?Then again what about the risks to young peoples knees and joints from high impact sports? Shouldn't some discussion be devoted to this serious matter? Basketball,football and track are hard on the body. Look at the surgeries that take place.It is rather surprising that low impact sports such as swimming is not highlighted way more. Can't swimmers be heroes too?What about cycling competition in the high schools? Can't cyclists be heroes too? Is Lawrence not declared a bicycle city?The money left over from a 2005 bond issue for capital improvements should never have been considered for athletics. This concern was voiced before the bond issue was approved.Yep one version of PLAY after another.=========================================A new USD 497 wellnss director has been hired. So why not develop wellness/fitness centers in each school complete with ellipitical cross trainers? This could be done for less money and less driving around. Also would be in existing neighborhoods. This type of plan would require millions upon millions fewer dollars. Have unisex wellness/fitness classes or separate classes which ever. Much of this could begin at home which I know some are doing.

Take_a_letter_Maria 9 years, 10 months ago

jrlii (Anonymous) says: Why is it that the band and orchestra programs need to have regular fundraising drives, but I've never heard of a bake sale for football? I figure that means that either football is getting too much of a tax subsidy, or music isn't getting enough!--------------------------------------------------------------------------When was the last time you paid to see a band or orchestra program at the school?I'm not saying admission is covering the cost for fb and bb, but that gate fee is roughly the equivalent of the fine arts fundraisers.For the record, one of my kids plays in band and sings in chorale the other plays in orchestra and sings in the men's choir.

Bruce Bertsch 9 years, 10 months ago

First lets address some of Merrill's irational concerns:Sports are much harder on females, soccer, basketball, gymnastics, track and field, etc than they are on males. It's a physiological thing. Impact has little to do with it. As currently used, it is likely more dangerous to continue to use second rate facilitites than to build new ones. The issue is why wasn't it done long ago when it would have cost substantially less?Fine arts, and wellness, ie athletics are always the first on the chopping block even though study after study shows that students who participate do better academically as well. So in reality, this is an investment in our youth. An investment that should have been made years ago. Even Manhattan has better facilities. It's called CICO Park. CICO is an acronym for CIty - COunty, ie, paid for by all taxpayeer not just the school district. What a concept, but apparently not here in Lawrence and Douglas County.

stuckinthemiddle 9 years, 10 months ago

coolI understand what you're talking about... I don't live far from this area...people are going to get the chance to speak up about these things... but still... these people with the big ideas ignore this kind of stuff because they don't believe it is their problem...and... when folks do bring up these concerns they will be labeled killjoys... or whacky-anti-progress-leftists...when all they want is to keep their homes from flooding...

stuckinthemiddle 9 years, 10 months ago

CoolExactly:the lack of considerations for civil engineering and other concerns in effected areas are typical for big projects here in Lawrence...the go-getters in this town are notorious for putting the cart before the horse...and in the end... the rest of us end up paying for it:

my2girls 9 years, 10 months ago

JackRipper says Well actually, Take_a_letter_Maria, just last weekend. $6 a ticket for a Junior High chorale performance________Those performances are all fundraisers for the choral departments for each school. The Jr. Highs have their Variety shows and LHS has Showtime and LFSH has Encore. I believe LFSH still sells fruit but LHS has a Gala for their MUSIC DEPARTMENT fundraiser. These fundraisers are all very important to these departments. Band instruments are very expensive as are orchestra instruments and choir music. I have gladly paid this fee to see these outstanding kids perform and will continue to support them long after my child is out of high school. And for the record my child is also in Chorale and in Band.Now about the new projected athletic facilities, they are long over due. Haskell is the PITS!

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