• At the Lawrence High School stadium, the press box will be built on the east side away from houses, and a retaining wall on the west side must be at least 87 feet from the school’s property line.
• Neighbors will have input on the landscaping installed west of the stadium.
• The new LHS softball field must have dugouts at least 65 feet from the property line.
• Lights on the new fields must be limited to how they shine into the neighborhoods.
• The district will not allow Lawrence Parks and Recreation to use any new fields at LHS except for the new tennis courts.
• Any sound system at a new LHS field cannot be used after 10 p.m., unless there are extenuating circumstances, like a weather delay or extra innings.
• Except for the tennis courts, the district cannot allow a third party to use lights or the sound system.
School Fields Settlement Agreement ( .PDF )
It took about three months to negotiate.
Instead of a legal battle that might have lasted for years, the Lawrence school district and neighbors reached an agreement Thursday to allow construction of new athletic fields and a football stadium near Lawrence High School.
“I think everyone was mindful of the fact that we were trying to do this for the betterment of the students at our high schools, and I think both sides worked very hard to get that done,” said Craig Grant, school board president.
Several members of the Centennial Neighborhood Association sued the school district and city in November, alleging the boards illegally approved the project. They objected to the size of the stadium near LHS and several other sports fields near their properties.
“My clients are pleased, and there have been substantial modifications to the original plan addressing many of their concerns,” said Ronald Schneider, an attorney representing the neighbors.
Board members unanimously approved the settlement — which does not involve money — during a special meeting Thursday night after they met for 30 minutes with their attorneys, Pete Curran and Brad Finkeldei.
Last year, the board had approved financing for what would amount to a $12 million construction project to add and improve several athletic fields with artificial turf at both high schools, including adding bleachers for football stadiums on the campuses to avoid renting Haskell Stadium.
Board members had said it was a safety issue to keep students from having to leave campus for practices and to create equity between the two high schools. Several neighbors last year objected at lively Planning Commission, City Commission and school board meetings.
After the lawsuit was filed, however, both sides worked hard to reach an agreement. The school district made concessions on the construction and limiting the use of the new LHS fields and stadium.
Grant said he hoped LHS could play some football games on campus this fall, depending on the construction timeline.
For example, the district can only allow Lawrence Parks and Recreation to use the new tennis courts to be built near the former Centennial School instead of any new fields.
“As our plans have progressed, we have found additional ways to further accommodate the neighbors without affecting our ability to further improve the LHS campus and infrastructure,” Superintendent Randy Weseman said. “We are pleased to have found a way to proceed cooperatively with the neighbors of these schools.”
Schneider, who negotiated for the neighbors with attorneys Ed Collister and Adam Hall, said once the suit was filed, negotiations became productive.
“This proceeded well, and I must attribute it to both counsel on the other side and Randy Weseman in particular,” Schneider said. “My clients also deserve credit.”
The settlement also dismisses the suit against the city, Schneider said.
The neighbors will also have further input in some landscaping plans and traffic discussions.