Archive for Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Board approves athletic facilities

Long-contested plans for new athletic facilities at the city's high schools have made it over the final hump. Monday night, the school board voted to approve the project.

October 14, 2008


Four phases for projects

The projects at Lawrence High School, Free State High School and Lawrence Virtual School will be built in four phases. The district will seek further approval from the school board to begin each subsequent phase.

Phase I

Construction of football, baseball, softball and soccer fields, band practice areas and tracks at both high schools. Also laying artificial turf, fencing and goalposts at LHS and Free State. Eight tennis courts would be added at the Virtual School, along with parking spots at all campuses.

Phase II

Installing bleachers, sound systems and scoreboards.

Phase III

Adding restrooms and concessions.

Phase IV

Purchasing replacement equipment, working on Free State parking lot and adding three additional tennis courts.

After months of planning, discussion and arguments from neighbors of Lawrence High School, the Lawrence school board Monday unanimously voted to approve the construction of athletic facilities at LHS and Free State High School, paving the way for two identical sports complexes at the city's high schools. The work will also involve property at the Lawrence Virtual School south of LHS, formerly Centennial School.

In a meeting that reprised much of what occurred at prior city commission and planning commission meetings, opponents of the projects pleaded with the school board to maintain the historic integrity of the Centennial neighborhood, and said the projects were designated under the wrong city development code.

School district officials repeated that the projects will improve student safety and bring aging Lawrence High up to par with Free State. Superintendent Randy Weseman noted that the LHS fields would allow the district to further meet Title IX requirements for female athletes.

Mary Rodriguez, the district's chief operations officer, and Kathy Johnson, finance director, said the project, which will be constructed in four phases, will cost $9.2 million. Those figures were still being massaged as late as Monday. The projects will be funded by a lease-purchase, where the district will issue certificates of participation to private investors to build the football, soccer, track, baseball and softball fields and tennis courts.

The district would pay about $1 million a year over 10 years. It will use $3.8 million left over from a 2005 bond to supplement the lease-purchase funds. School board President Craig Grant said the project would not require a tax raise.

"It's great for the students of Lawrence," Rodriguez said. "It's not just now; it's for the future."

Weseman said he was pleased that the projects finally got the go-ahead.

"To actually have it come to a point where we can begin to make the improvements to Lawrence High School and Free State High School feels good," he said. "What this allows us to do (with) a phased, organized fashion, it helps us with the bidding piece and the financing piece."

The first phase of the project includes building the playing fields at both schools.

Rodriguez said she was hopeful that some elements of the construction would begin as early as this week. Some neighbors, however, hinted recently that they would file a lawsuit to halt construction.

Sven Alstrom, an architect and Centennial neighborhood resident, said the school board didn't do enough to consider the concerns of neighbors, likening the situation to Wall Street companies bilking investors.

"We are shareholders and they don't listen to shareholders," he said after the meeting. "It's a shame that this has to go forward because the board acknowledges the problem of duplicate stadiums."

Board members asked about the possibility of erecting temporary bleachers instead of larger stadiums, to mitigate the unsightliness of an empty football stadium, as well as considering the possibility of a future citywide sports complex.

Grant concluded the meeting by noting that the district settled on three search firms as finalists in the district's hunt for a new superintendent. They will be identified today and will present themselves to the board next Monday.


yoornotmee 9 years, 5 months ago

When I bought my house at 22nd and Ohio, I wasn't expecting a stadium to move in down the block. If I stated all my opinions about this, I'd probably get flamed, so I'll just leave it at that.

KURocks 9 years, 6 months ago

Waste of money, are you serious?. Long overdue and necessary for Lawrence to have facilities that will now be upgraded to 20th century standards. Perhaps in another 20 years we will have facilities that rival our neighboring communities.

FMT6488 9 years, 6 months ago

My only serious objections to this project were: 1. Funding - I'm not interested in having to pay more money for yet another City/ County/ School District project that I will most likely NEVER use. This seems to have been addressed(I just hope they don't attempt to levy yet another tax should this funding scheme fail...). 2. Student and facility parking - not too sure about how well this has been addressed. If I come home from work early, and discover an unknown vehicle parked in my drive (or any other time), I will make an attempt to discover who it belongs to. Then, when I am unable to find the owner(or if the vehicle has a school parking permit in the window), I'll just call around for the most expensive local tow service - and invite them to tow the offending vehicle. I'm tired of having to drive through my yard to park my car in my drive due to kids' cars blocking my drive.

mom_of_three 9 years, 6 months ago

Bozo,Freshmen girls basketball last year at one school only cut 2 girls, and that was because play time would be limited as it was. To say that the girls who made the team are elite athletes is a gross overstatement. On one girls freshmen basketball team, it was clear there were very, very few elite athletes. To say that athletics benefit the elite, especially at the junior high level, is ridiculous in this town. I know LHS is hoping to get enough girls to have a good junior varsity and C team this year, to get enough playing time for those who want to play. Those players are not the elite, but those who love the game and want to play. Their skills are improved by playing, in hopes of moving up to varsity eventually.

Ryan Wood 9 years, 6 months ago

Yes this is long overdue. God forbid Lawrence provides extracirricular activities to make our kids more well-rounded and at the same time push them toward active lifestyles and away from obesity.

wysiwyg69 9 years, 6 months ago

if a majority of you in lawrence do not like the boards decision, guess who can make sure they are not on the board in the next elections.

saoirseglen 9 years, 6 months ago

I am not keen on the proposed construction as it will directly affect my own property with negative effects during and after the construction. However, if they are pursuing private funding which will not increase my taxes to pay for it, I am not going to fault them on that point.However, I do expect that no students will need to fill up Greever Terrace once all the new parking spaces have been created. It will be nice to have more than a one lane street when school is in session.

monkeyspunk 9 years, 6 months ago

What a load of BS Bozo, you have zero proof of that assertion. You think that if there were no competitive sports then EVERYONE would be outside doing something active? Please.And what is a "small percentage"? There are 1340 students at LHS, less at LFHS, there are probably 80-90 on the football team alone, if you count Junior Varsity. And what about the other sports?BaseballBowlingBoys BasketballBoys Swim/DiveBoys GolfBoys SoccerBoys TennisCross CountryGirls BasketballGirls GolfGirls SoccerGirls Swim/DiveGirls TennisGymnasticsIntramuralsSoftballTrackVolleyballWrestlingIf there is an average of 10 people on each of those teams/groups, that is about another 200 student athletes. And I am betting with Track, Baseball/Softball, Intramurals, and Soccer, that average is probably closer to 15 or 20 . At those levels, you are looking at 1/3 of the student body participating in an evil competitive sport. Oh my! How will the obesity be stopped!While it is not a majority, it is a very good chunk of the students at these schools who are involved in this stuff.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 9 years, 6 months ago

Are there some exceptions, Hepburn? Yes, there are, but the fact remains that in most of these competitive sports, if a kid appears not to be one of the elites on the team, their participation will be discouraged-- that doesn't mean they'll be kicked off the team, but for many, it'll be anything but a character-building experience.

Ryan Wood 9 years, 6 months ago

I had a buddy of mine in high school cut from the baseball team. The other non-cutting sports at the school encouraged late sign-ups for those who didn't make baseball. He ended up playing tennis and was a two-year letter winner by the time he was done.High school athletics is, in a lot of cases, what you make of it. Though varsity playing time is competitive, yes, participation is encouraged and cutting is not done in about 85 percent of the sports. The sports that do cut do it because they absolutely have to. Trust me, coaches don't look forward to telling kids that they can't play.Sports teach discipline, good active habits, carry over into academic success and create a lot of great memories that last a lifetime. Funding facilities that help make that experience great is hardly an "incredible waste of money."

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 9 years, 6 months ago

"God forbid Lawrence provides extracirricular activities to make our kids more well-rounded and at the same time push them toward active lifestyles and away from obesity."The emphasis on the competitive sports in which only a small percentage of students participate has the exact opposite effect-- it creates a student body comprised mostly of spectators and future couch potatoes.

SettingTheRecordStraight 9 years, 6 months ago

The school board "...will use $3.8 million left over from a 2005 bond to supplement the lease-purchase funds."Better for government to provide a $3.8 million refund to taxpayers.

jmadison 9 years, 6 months ago

This shows again how out of touch the school board has become. They believe they have a blank check from the taxpayers. Unless they are told differently at the ballot box, the unrestrained spending will continue.

Shelley Bock 9 years, 6 months ago

The problem is that a centralized facility would cost as much, if not more, than what is being constructed. It would take considerable time finding a location and building the infrastructure. For sports other than football, one stadium would be insufficient for baseball, softball and soccer because they play more games.Even though the Shawnee Mission, Olathe and Blue Valley Districts have centralized sports facilities, they have a competitive game field for each high school.

Phil Minkin 9 years, 6 months ago

While countries, states, municipalities and individuals are in financial disarray the school board proceeds with 2 massive projects???

Bud Stagg 9 years, 6 months ago

I believe the plan is to have these be temporary for a few years, then build a district complex. Each school will have a nice field for soccer/football and a good practice facility in 5 years when the district complex is built. If you look at any of the facilities of other 6A schools in the state, we are a joke right now. This is very long overdue and actually is a good planning move if you ask me. The guy that said "I'll never use it" really shows his own ignorance. The fact we need schools and facilities is to educate the youth. We need doctors, engineers, architects, car mechanics, or whoever for the future. We need them to be the best so we should provide the best facilities for our students and teachers.God people why else are you on this planet but to improve things for the future? It isn't so you can protect your stupid home values!

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 9 years, 6 months ago

You obviously don't know how high school sports operate, especially in big schools, monkeyspunk. They aren't designed to be all inclusive-- each sport wants only the most athletic kids they can get, and the rest are actively discouraged from participating.Don't get me wrong. I'm all for competitive sports. I play several of them all year round-- I'd much rather play one than watch one. But the competitive sports at both the high schools and even the junior highs in this town (and nearly every other town) are not designed to involve any but the most elite athletes, and all the other kids are expected to be little more than spectators.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 9 years, 6 months ago

I don't despise sports, hepburn-- I just don't buy into the myth that the elite sports model the permeates this society builds either character or community precisely because it is so intentionally exclusionary.

monkeyspunk 9 years, 6 months ago

KURocks and HowMuchRice:While I agree that the current facilities are lacking, did they really need TWO new facilities? Wouldn't one centralized complex, for events and games have been sufficient? And then use some of the money saved to improve practice facilities at the individual schools if necessary?Two seems like overkill, especially when you toss in the cost of maintaining the surfaces of these facilities.

Shelley Bock 9 years, 6 months ago

Another bozo...I do know how sports are handled in big schools and you're wrong about Lawrence. With the exception of sports which have limited numbers starting and playing on each level, baseketball for example, participants are cut.However, in most sports, numbers and depth control. Examples would be football and soccer. If you're correct, why then do local soccer teams have seniors playing on sub-varsity teams? Because the coaches reward desire to compete over having smaller squads. The seniors know that they won't make varsity, but they play because they like the game and want to participate. These sports are inclusive.

sarahsmilehawk 9 years, 6 months ago

In what world do improved schools equal lower property values? The plan will take about 300 student cars off your streets and make the high schools equal. And from what I gather, it will do it without raising your taxes.Whine, whine, whine...

inklines 9 years, 6 months ago

Can the LJW print the plans/plat for both schools that appear in the video? It would be nice for those of us who work during school board meetings to see just exactly what they are planning and where things are going to go. From what I can see from the video, LHS has some serious space constraints that probably weren't foreseen by the school board that approved and purchased that land many, many years ago. It leaves me wondering if our school district should have purchased the parcel of land just south of Free State and north of 6th street. It would have been large enough for a multisport facility plus parking and would have made vehicle traffic ingress and egress easier. Oh well, too late now. It belongs to the profit hungry developers.

Shelley Bock 9 years, 6 months ago

Another bozo says..."The emphasis on the competitive sports in which only a small percentage of students participate has the exact opposite effect- it creates a student body comprised mostly of spectators and future couch potatoes."There is a directly relationship between activities and success in high school. Athletes obtain higher grades and graduate at a higher rate than those who don't participate.On another thread I calcualted the numbers involved in extracurricular athletics as being around 40% of the student body. In some, soccer, maybe others,... there are no cut policies. Boys soccer has over 50 out; girls soccer has 40+. You must also include band and cheerleaders as participants.To despise athletics as being elitest is unfortunate and unfounded. Sometimes, it is the only thing that creates a "community".Since these improvements are 20-30 years overdue, why have such an objection?

Shelley Bock 9 years, 6 months ago

Purplesage says..."Priorities are right on track. Sports always first."That's not correct!80 years for a major improvement to improve the football venue. 23 years to find a soccer field at LHS. Similar time periods for baseball and softball. That's sure not putting "sports always first". That's putting sports on the back burner and forgetting to turn on the heat.

Richard Heckler 9 years, 6 months ago

The school board is considering a large sports complex aka PLAY. Apparently School board member Scott Morgan is pushing PLAY and in the next couple of years. Why so quiet about it?Tom Bracciano stated these practice/competition fields are the first stage of the P.L.A.Y. plan. Finally it comes to the public surface. Why wasn't said so in the first place? Why keep it from the public?The school board has about 3 to 4 million dollars a year left over from their CIP or our tax monies and that they plan to pay a million a year in some Purchase Certificate form to pay off the fields and therefore never ask the community to vote on this. There was 4.8 million left from the 2005 bond. USD 497 has no intentions of refunding this money.This is P.L.A.Y via the USD 497 back door and no city vote.

Richard Heckler 9 years, 6 months ago

Do we want Scott Morgan in the state senate...what will he not tell us as a state senator?It seems to me USD 497 taxpayers should have had an opportunity to vote on a project that cost $10-$12 million.How was it there just happen to be $4.5 million left over from the 2005 bond issue? Was PLAY actually figured into the bond issue yet USD 497 tax payers were not advised?

JHOK32 9 years, 6 months ago

Oh right....spend, spend, spend, while the rest of us are barely getting by. Can you spell r-e-c-e-s-s-i-o-n?

dandelion 9 years, 6 months ago

We now see what is most important to this school board, sports, not academics. Get rid of this group next time they're up for reelection. Vote in somebody who is pro education.

Marty_McFly 9 years, 6 months ago

I love seeing the beloved architect, Sven Alstrom, at the 28 second mark of this video,Heavy.

purplesage 9 years, 6 months ago

Priorities are right on track. Sports always first.

doc1 9 years, 6 months ago

This is way past overdue and should have been done years ago. Just build it.

KANSASGATOR 9 years, 6 months ago

What a bunch of horrible losers who know NOTHING. These facilty issues are so overdue that the district is LUCKY that no one has sued them for lack of progress.If you are aginst these improvements, YOU ARE CLUELESS.It is incomprehensible how bad the facilities are compared to other schools in the state, and in the Sunflower League. You people should get in your cars and check out what other places have... and you are complaining about a few bucks that will affect thousands of kids for a few decades? Get a life losers...

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