Archive for Wednesday, September 17, 2008

New sports facilities OK’d

Residents voice concern about plan

Neighbors of the Lawrence School District and Lawrence High School made their arguments for and against the proposed athletic fields at LHS and Free State High School.

September 17, 2008


After hours of back and forth between supporters and detractors of the Lawrence school district's proposal to build new sports facilities at Lawrence High School, the City Commission voted to pass the plan, with several amendments to the district's proposal.

The school district once again laid out its plan, which would add fields for football, baseball, softball and soccer, as well as new tennis courts to be built at Centennial School just south of LHS. More parking spots would keep students safe because they wouldn't have to cross busy streets.

Mary Rodriguez, the district's chief operations officer, said a chief issue is the inequity of facilities at LHS and Free State High School.

"There is a need to address the outdoor inequity" of facilities for both schools, and boys and girls sports, she said.

A similar plan to upgrade facilities at Free State was also on the table and passed without much discussion.

The proposal for the LHS athletic fields was approved 4-1, with Commissioner Boog Highberger opposed. The proposals for Centennial School and Free State passed unanimously.

Rodriguez said the proposal would save money in the long run. Right now, she said, the district pays $80,000 to use facilities like Haskell Stadium, as well as transporting students to and from events. In the next five years the district would save at least $400,000. The plan to use artificial turf would also cut expenses for maintaining fields, which would help pay for the proposal.

Rodriguez also presented an event calendar, in an effort to appease neighbors' fears that many events would bring heavy traffic and blast noise and light into the area. The fields would be vacant for about seven months of the year.

Opponents of the project, primarily residents of the Centennial and University Place neighborhoods near LHS, said the school district hadn't sought enough input from neighbors. They say traffic will increase, noise and light pollution will blight the neighborhood, and they worry about the impact of the new facilities on water drainage.

"If you want to kill a neighborhood, this is the way to do it," said one neighbor.

The district agreed to move the football stadium 75 feet away from the homes of neighbors in order to comply with the city code. The initial plans had placed the football stadium only 55 feet away from homes.

While many in the audience, as well as Mayor Mike Dever, voiced concerns about building two separate football stadiums, rather than one district stadium, the proposal passed.

The plan now goes to the school board, which will vote on it Monday.

Commissioners agreed that the school district has a responsibility to be a good neighbor, thus asking the district to move the stadium back 20 feet from property lines. However, Commissioner Rob Chestnut said it was the commission's responsibility to ensure the district's plans are up to code.

"The fact is comments regarding equity, financial wherewithal, (the) district stadium ... are not in the jurisdiction of this body," he said.

Tom Bracciano, the district's division director of operations and facility planning, said the district wants to break ground on the football and soccer fields Oct. 9, and hopes to have the LHS baseball stadium complete by spring.


shoffner 9 years, 7 months ago

Lawrence Cultural Myth Number One: Education is valued.Lawrence Cultural Reality Number One: Sports are way more important.Ridiculous.

BigAl 9 years, 7 months ago

Hepburn.... 100% correct. It is about time.

CNA_Resident 9 years, 7 months ago

We support Tom Bracciano, and the over 1.5 million-dollar modifications the school district has made to alleviate the concerns of school border home-owners; seven of whom, by the way, also support the modified plans for this much-needed and long-overdue improvement to Lawrence High School. We live one block away from LHS, and for what it's worth, are co-founders of our neighborhood association.We know how much hard work (twelve years, folks!) has been done to bring this proposal to fruition, and we also know the Centennial Neighborhood will be so much better for families to start moving back in and remodeling this modest housing stock in order to be closer to a really great high school.

nucleardude 9 years, 7 months ago

Thank you city commissioners (minus the one anti-Lawrence/growth/progress/youth) for making a very wise decision based on the facts and research presented by the city staff. It is good to hear some acknowledge areas they need the guidance of professionals who understand situations, codes, etc. instead of strictly going against Lawrence. The additional points in making the decision can be working into the details of the project to the beneifit of all. It is interesting the same opposition comments as we heard for the Kasold improvements. Hmmm, I wonder who prompts the neighbors on advice for going against the city. Some of the comments from neighbors were reasonable for discussion, others bordered on the absurd. Centenial school is gone, get over it. This is such a huge positive for the neighborhood. Yes, I do have a home in centenial neighborhood a block and a half from the school. I look for the neighborhood to improve. The facts are the neighborhood has been adversely affected by student housing and the close proximity to the university. Not by the Lawrence school system nor by the high school. These improvements will bring new community life to the area. Water drainage issues will be a problem no more. The sale of a home in the area will not have the prior concerns of flooding issues. Wake up, don't listen to all the foolish suggestions you receive from a need-to-retire land use attorney. This is a benefit to all of Lawrence. This facility will be used for at least up to nine LHS soccer teams (boys and girls), three football teams, track, etc. It will be very limited on the times the lights will be on beyond 9:00 p.m. Parking all hours will be reduced. Thank you again city commissioners for making a great decision.

shoffner 9 years, 7 months ago

Actually Hepburn, you are wrong.I graduated from Free State in 2004 and had many friends that attended Lawrence High. My biggest concern was, and still is, the lack of well-paid, quality teachers in our classrooms.Yes, I was an athlete: believe me, go look at the "wrestling" (see: multi-purpose) rooms of these schools and tell me they aren't a joke to train in.However, there are far more pressing issues than accommodating the vast minority of students who participate in these events.The school district should be working to accommodate ALL kids in the district for LEARNING purposes.Sure football may teach 75 young men a little discipline, but our society is going to be better off in my opinion if the 400 kids that graduate every year can read, write, do basic math and have some social skills.It's not that they are building sports facilities. It is that this district has consistently shown that it's focus IS NOT on the student-learner, but rather pandering to political pressure. Special education, WRAP/Burt Nash, theatre, music and art are just as important as sports.

Shelley Bock 9 years, 7 months ago

Wrong, shoffner!Expenditures for sports facilities once isn't selling out to sports. In comparison to Lawrence's peer districts, this is a modest, yet tardy action. For the first time, the schools will be in control of their outdoors activities and not dependent on the whim of others.Participation in extracurricular activities is directly related to academic success. This promotes education rather than detracting from it.Is it your desire that the school district never own their facilities? Or that the district never spend anything that develops sports? In my nearly 40 years in this community, this is the first time high school sports facilities have been developed.

justaverage 9 years, 7 months ago

I know some teachers who would be bad teachers no matter how much money they made. I would like for the teachers in USD 497 to be the highest paid teachers in the state. In so doing and if it were up to me, their performance would be audited each year and those who are not performing would not have their contracts renewed.Throwing money into education doesn't always work. Efficient use of money and resources does work. I think building sports facilities at each of our high schools is an efficient use of money and resources. If/when we build a third high school, all aspects of the facilities need to be included in the budget from the start.

bd 9 years, 7 months ago

Why not one central complex like Topeka and Johnson County??????

saoirseglen 9 years, 7 months ago

I already hear tennis matches well past midnight when I am outside my home from the existing tennis courts. I am two blocks away from those courts on Greever Terrace. I already have a single lane one way street, effectively, due to the high school student drivers who park on my street Monday through Friday.All this is going to do is make trying to get in and out of my driveway, let alone down my street, even more of a nightmare. It also means that I will have noisy events across the street from me until past 10 p.m. that I will hear inside my home. I will also have to deal with traffic volume that far exceeds what a narrow residential street can handle along with every street that parallels or intersects with it anywhere close to the fields. I already know what a KU game day looks like and that is just the traffic going onto the campus. I have no desire to live in the middle of it.Point of fact, the noise of traffic on 23rd street is less, while I am standing outside my home, than the tennis courts are at the same time of night.I really don't see the benefit of adding the sports fields, and I played sports in high school. This is the same garbage that I heard from the administration when I was in school. The lesson being taught is that sports will always be more important than academics. Schools will find money to keep their pet sports programs alive even while their academics go downhill.Refresh my memory please. Was this school district not just asking for more funding with which to pay teachers higher salaries? And yet they have all this money to build new sports facilities?From now on it is voting down every request for additional funding they put on the ballot.

kujhawkfan 9 years, 7 months ago

If you people are worried about noise and traffic why in the world would you live by a high school in the first place? Lawrence High School was built in 1954, so there has been noise and parking problems for over 50 years. You people have a solution if you are so worried about traffic and noise, don't live next to a high school!

bd 9 years, 7 months ago

Have any of you seen the facilities at Hummer Park in Topeka, talk about doing something right!Build a multi-purpose/multi-use district facility SW off the bypass near the other ballfields, easy access with room to grow!

Jackson 9 years, 7 months ago

Look for SALE signs on houses near LHS & CENTENNIAL VS soon.The immediate neighborhood will change from owner-occupied to rental property. Does the city or 497 care? No, but taxpayers will when it becomes a student slum.

letsgetwise 9 years, 7 months ago

saoirseglen: While I understand and can even agree with the frustration with the issue of salaries for teachers vs. money for sports facilities, my question to "neighbors" of LHS is do you not expect there to be noise, traffic, parking issues, etc. when you live so close to the school? We lived across the street from the high school I went to. There was noise, traffic, too many cars going way too fast, and parking everywhere. There were kids constantly coming and going and activities "all the time". We knew this was to be expected living next to the high school. I am not talking about anything over and above the law, I'm simply saying we knew this neighborhood was definitely going to have more of all of the above, than say the streets further away from the school.

mom_of_three 9 years, 7 months ago

bd,there are issues with building around YSI, which have been mentioned before. And even though that would be a great solution, it still wouldn't solve the problem of equity between the schools. I think the residents are over-reacting to sports facilities near their homes. You are looking at August - late October that outside sports would be played there, and then February through May. Very few games are late at night, and you might have a track meet and soccer game at the same time, so a few more cars, but big deal. Out of town visitors to the track means more money for businesses. Funny thing is, I haven't heard any complaints from Haskell neighbors about the football games, and they have three schools playing at the facility at the moment.

saoirseglen 9 years, 7 months ago

I can handle the existing noise and existing traffic. The former I only notice when I am outside of my home and the existing tennis court is not bad, though I do hear it. The traffic, given the time that it overlaps with when I leave for work and return home I can handle.What I do not want is the sprawling traffic snarl akin to KU games coming to my street because of new facilities which are being build in an older residential area with streets not able to handle the increase in traffic.Again, under the current situation there is minimal or tolerable levels of bother. With this new plan the schools want to bother residential area residents and have no real intent to obey the same city codes that the residents have to abide by.

Matt Schwartz 9 years, 7 months ago

do the math on maintaining a natural grass field(man hours in mowing and lining, fuel for mower, fertilizer, etc...) compared to turf(considering that it will need replacement in x amount of years) and replacing turf will always win out....which one is safer than the other? that is the question

Prairielander 9 years, 7 months ago

Hummer Sports Park in Topeka was built into a primarily residential neighborhood. I have to applauder the School Board for making use of exiting (owned) property rather than looking to purchase new undeveloped property on the periphery of the community.Now some others (including several commissioners) have rightly questioned the expense and I wonder where all the money will come from (does USD497 just have millions sitting around in some slush fund?), but that is not the concern of the City Commission. Their only concern is the conformance to code and impact on the neighbors. Living in OWL and dealing with KU football game traffic, lights and noise, I think the impact will be negligible and maybe even a positive. I greatly enjoy game days.

Stephen Roberts 9 years, 7 months ago

I am confused. I watched the public opinion until it ended.Scott Morgan made a public comment and he said no matter what the commission decides tonight, there is still a long way to go on this process.About an hour later, the commission was talking about the football stadium and asked Tom Braccino what is their timing. Tom stated they plan to start construction by Oct. 9th.Did anyone else hear this? If so, who is lying. A lawyer (Scott Morgan) or Tom?

saoirseglen 9 years, 7 months ago

USD 497 has a history of noncompliance with city codes and regulations., especially within my neighborhood.Those who welcome game days and all the chaos can have all they want, but please keep it in your neighborhoods. I have no desire to increase the chaos in mine.Also, if the school district was so concerned about student safety, why do they let them off campus for lunch and more? Or is it that they just don't want to rent needed facilities when they can boondoggle funds for development that will only be used a few times a year?If the school has the money for this sports complex project they evidently have more than enough money already for everything they have to pay for. This means they need no new funds for anything, right?

Richard Heckler 9 years, 7 months ago

With $2.3 million of USD 497 tax dollars involved this matter should have been on the ballot in November. Now will all of the supporters be screaming about a tax increase to cover operations and maintenance? Replacement of the bogus turf in a few years?

shoffner 9 years, 7 months ago

Actually jerk_p: I didn't need to search a dang thing. I have read, multiple times, that there is an $11 MILLION MAINTENANCE BACKLOG for the elementary schools. Enough stated, in my opinion, as to why this money can be better spent.Great message to the Lawrence Youth: "We care about you, (once you get in high school and play outdoor athletics)"Really, I read some of these comments and it is no wonder the financial market is the way it is. Some people of the couple generations before mine just don't get that money isn't free.And finally jerk_p: Would that $2.4 million "leftover" money not be tax money?Thank you for helping illustrate my points further. It is appreciated.Now a question for you. Lawrence builds/upgrades whatever they are doing, currently estimated at $2.8 million dollars. There is still the original backlog of $11 million at the elementary schools, and it is getting costlier every day. Where are you (pretend that you can make that decision) going to get that $11 million for the elementary schools?Let me guess: 2009 Elementary Schools Bond Issue?

Hwy50 9 years, 7 months ago

For those of you who continue to believe that funding for salaries and facilities come from the same source, please learn how it really works before posting your ignorant comments. Money that can be used to build facilities such as these cannot be used to pay salaries.

shoffner 9 years, 7 months ago

What I meant for this line was: "ANY entity can transfer and reassign monies to be used in ANY budget." (Within their entity)

shoffner 9 years, 7 months ago

Jerk_patrol:Show me where this money was appropriated for the schools facilities vs. where it was appropriated for operations. That is my deal. This money is approprited from NOWHERE!!! This school district does not have this money!Please Jerk, show me where the Lawrence School District has budgeted this 2.3 million dollars at. Can you? Can anyone? I can. The Lawrence School District and City are expecting the taxpayers to foot this bill.

Bud Stagg 9 years, 7 months ago

For those of you who never get out and see the surrounding communities, our sports facilities are a slum by comparison. This move has been long overdue. Bozo and the rest, is there anything you agree with? Can you help us to move ahead instead of complaining all the time? I suppose with every positive move, there has to be a negative comment.I believe that sports enhance a students experience and do make most of them better students. Good move commission! Way to be a non-factor Boog! Do you ever vote FOR anything?

shoffner 9 years, 7 months ago

HWY50:I am calling you out on that. COMPLETE BS!ANY entity can transfer and reassign monies to be used in ANY budget.Worked at KU Recreation Services doing the Intermural Fields Maintenance and Budget. So I have experience with both budgets and working turf.It is an ABSOLUTE MYTH that an artifical field will GREATLY reduce maintenance concerns for said field. Google some things about natural grass vs. artifical turf and be enlightened. Artificial turf will save SOME money, but not the millions of dollars that some of you think it will.Talk about needing to learn how stuff really works before posting ignorant comments.

Prairielander 9 years, 7 months ago

I think most undertand that there is a difference between "facilities money" and "salaries", but that doesn't answer the question of where this facilities money is coming from. Is it left over from the last bond issue? If there is enough money for these projects, is there more?

oldschoolgirl 9 years, 7 months ago

Sad that they claim this will be an improvement to the area. How will more traffic and noise make more people want to live in the area? Let those people that want it, live in the area and listen to the traffic, and noise. I don't see them wanting it in their neighborhood. They are living in houses far away from the problems this will create. Spend money on things all students can enjoy instead of just the jocks and their overprotective parents.I don't hear anyone complaining about all of the students leaving for lunch everyday and the chance of an accident then but oh we worry that someone will have an accident going to a game???? Double standards are everywhere.

jafs 9 years, 7 months ago

The point remains that there are probably a variety of other things that this money could have been spent on rather than new athletic facilities.

repaste 9 years, 7 months ago

How about the cars driving on the side walk by free state to park? Can they fix that first?

bearded_gnome 9 years, 7 months ago

what?no comment, no 58-comments, from coaltrain/spiderman/cool???he must've been disappeared, or else he's in deep mourning!

shoffner 9 years, 7 months ago

Hey jerk_p:Way to resort to a personal attack! That's how you'll get what you want.Hey everyone! Jerk_P is going to personally harass you for the $11 million dollars.Please, enlighten us all with your solution to the LPS financial woes, especially the $11 million elementary maintenance backlog.Finally, I ask you, how is my argument changing? Because I use different words to say the same thing? Let me spell it out for you again (get your Thesaurus and Dictionary): The LPS could have used this $2.4 million "leftover" (tax) money to do repairs/upgrades in elementary schools. Instead, they are caving, once again, to outside politics, instead of doing what is truly the best for all the children in the district.

shepdog 9 years, 7 months ago

Sports facilities for a high school should be on campus if it is at all possible. This is a no brainer!!! It is 2008.When a company or a family is considering moving to town don't you think they look at sports facilities for their children? Helloooo! What percentage of the neighborhood is already rental property?? Its pretty close to K.U. also. I would think that has more of an influence then the noise in the neighborhood. This project is long overdue and needs to be expedited!!!

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