Archive for Sunday, June 27, 2010

Wellness campus plans draw healthy interest

June 27, 2010


On the street

What would you include in a wellness campus for youth?

A lot of little kids like video games, so I know they’d go there if there were video games, or air hockey and stuff like that. It’d keep ’em off the streets.

More responses

Related document

Wellness campus concept plan ( .PDF )

Potential components of the wellness campus

Components of a concept plan for a potential wellness campus on property owned by the city of Lawrence and Lawrence school district at the southeastern edge of town:

• An 80,000-square-foot gymnasium at the northern edge of the site, between two parking lots with a total of at least 250 spaces.

• A 40,000-square-foot enclosed wellness center, designed for youth activities and programs.

• A “miracle” ballfield, with fences 200 feet from home plate and designed to accommodate players with physical disabilities.

• A 7-acre lake, which would be stocked with fish and handle the site’s drainage-detention needs. The pond’s dam would be expected to run alongside the state’s property that is set aside for future construction of the South Lawrence Trafficway.

• A circuit of walking trails stretching for 1.5 miles, with connections to each of the features and winding through the city’s 40-acre park.

A gymnasium, wellness center, handicap-accessible ballfield and lake surrounded by walking trails are in the works for what one day could become one of the busiest highway interchanges in Lawrence.

Organizers now hope to take the plan from dream to reality, acknowledging that concept has plenty of distance to go: first needing public support, and then securing as much as $25 million in financing.

“We just have to see if the community wants to dream big,” said John McGrew, leader of Outside for a Better Inside, the organization driving to create the wellness campus in southeast Lawrence.

Campus plan

The vision from McGrew and others in the organization is just beginning to make formal rounds among local leaders, after months of development behind the scenes. McGrew plans to share concepts with members of the Lawrence City Commission and Lawrence school board in coming weeks.

As envisioned, the campus would be built on parts of 115 acres owned by the city and Lawrence school district at the southeastern edge of Lawrence. The property is northeast of East 1700 and North 1300 roads, just southwest of where the Kansas Department of Transportation plans to build an interchange to connect the existing Kansas Highway 10 with an as-yet-unbuilt eastern leg of the South Lawrence Trafficway.

The city has owned 40 acres of the site for years, most of it held for a future park.

Last year, the school district paid $1.7 million for about 75 acres adjacent to the northern and eastern boundaries of the city property, to hold in reserve for future needs such as a possible school or schools. District officials have acknowledged that “community interests” could be entertained as options for the site.

That’s what McGrew and others, such as Phil Struble of Landplan Engineering, are hoping for.

“It just happens to be a great idea that fits here,” said Struble, who is president of Landplan, which drew up a proposed site plan for the campus. “This is a focal point to start the conversation.”

Douglas County commissioners already have agreed to participate in helping move the discussion forward. Commissioner Jim Flory has suggested forming a “working group” — with members from county, district and city governments — to discuss options and see what might work.

“Personally, I’m very supportive of this,” Flory said. “I think it’s a great idea.”

Added Nancy Thellman, county commission chairwoman: “We can certainly be part of the conversation.”

First steps

For now, McGrew is talking about getting the pond and walking trails established first. That would require $200,000 or so, he said, likely to be secured through federal programs and private donations.

“We’re not asking (local governments) for any money,” McGrew said.

The pond would be able to serve as a detention pond for any development that might materialize on the site in the future, he said, whether it’s “Corporate Woods or a school or schools and a district stadium.”

Or a wellness campus, he said, where community resources — from Lawrence Memorial Hospital to the Community Mercantile to cycling clubs and the like — could work together to keep children active, engaged and interested in playing outdoors to improve their lives.

McGrew hopes the movement eventually could attract investments both near and far, whether from Bill Self’s Assists Foundation or Michelle Obama’s efforts to battle childhood obesity.

“Why shouldn’t we lead the state, and why shouldn’t we lead the nation in promoting wellness?” McGrew said. “If you don’t shoot for the moon, you certainly won’t get anywhere.”


smercer 7 years, 12 months ago

Mr. McGrew - Yes, you are asking local governments for money. You are asking the school district to dedicate land worth $1.7M to a non-school use. I should remind you that our buildings are decaying and there is a list of unmet capital outlay request pages long because of lack of funds.

Even if you get a grant for the initial installation of trails, who pays to maintain it? And if we install lighting for safety, would pays the utility bills? That would come out of the fund that pays teachers.

You say: “Why shouldn’t we lead the state, and why shouldn’t we lead the nation in promoting wellness?” McGrew said. “If you don’t shoot for the moon, you certainly won’t get anywhere.”

I challenge the school district: Why shouldn't we lead the state, and why shouldn't we lead the nation in test scores and academic achievement? Quit spending money of athletic stuff until you fix the appalling drop-out rate, update the votech courses, and bring back the language courses that were cut a few years ago (for a start).

And that shouldn't be shooting for the moon.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 12 months ago

Is the main purpose here to use public lands and dollars to drive development in an area where McGrew and friends very likely own a considerable amount of property they want to develop?

Nah, silly question.

jackson5 7 years, 12 months ago

McGrew was the realtor that presented the school district the fabulous deal of $1.7M for 45 acres. PDO sold the 45 acres to the school district but they did keep acres and acres of nearby land that currently have infrastructure being installed for future development.

In other growing towns, the developers donate the land near their developments to entice cities to build schools and parks nearby. In this town, it is backwards. The taxpayers overpay for undeveloped land and put in expensive amenities to help developers sell new homes. How much did the city pay for the drainage land that the developer could not build on that is now the DeVictor walking trail?

LadyJ 7 years, 12 months ago

McGrew said. “If you don’t shoot for the moon, you certainly won’t get anywhere.” That is exactly what people and banks said when they bought overpriced houses they couldn't afford and can't sell now because they are not worth the balance on the loan. Wait till the economy is better. That financing means higher property taxes. How much has the number of people that haven't paid their property taxes gone up in the last three years?

"Why shouldn’t we lead the state", yes let's lead the state and show others how not to get the city in deeper financial trouble. How can they say "we have to make deeper cuts" and yet keep spending money on "big dreams". Reality check people, and they also want an expensive library expansion on top of the homeless center. Let's not forget the clean-up of Farmers Coop property. Stop, deal with what we already have on our plate.

Steve Jacob 7 years, 12 months ago

$25M for this, $18M for a library, in a bad economy, when federal government dollars will soon dry up, and when issuing bonds may not work because higher interest rates we'd have to pay.

jackson5 7 years, 12 months ago

The Landplan concept drawing is titled "PDO Sports Complex." See the .pdf on the related document link above.

This is being promoted as a community driven initiative to promote wellness. Turns out it is being lobbied for by a nearby property owner, PDO. Nice.

Cait McKnelly 7 years, 12 months ago

The OTS about this was insane. People were calling it a "camp" and only one person out of four street responders mentioned any kind of high physical impact playground equipment. After finding out how much the city and the school district would be responsible for in it's financing I almost fell off my chair. Our schools have crumbling infra structure, class sizes that rival the Baby Boom era and are still facing financial shortfalls from the state and they want to spend what on WHAT? This is a crime against children. Someone seriously needs to call Child Protective Services on this school district for criminal neglect.

Richard Heckler 7 years, 12 months ago

What a scam! PLAY is reaching the $60-$70 million point.

This is the $25 million field house. Always trying to disguise a project by coming up with a new name. Very Chamber and republican like.

Put this to a vote!

Stop cramming PLAY down our throats!!!!!!

The real estate industry wants to local big government handout aka tax dollar subsidy to sell houses. Too bad the industry does not give a damn about maintaining existing resources such as school buildings.

Richard Heckler 7 years, 12 months ago

Remember taxpayers there is multi million dollar ongoing project at Clinton Lake by way of the parks department. It's called the Clinton Lake Regional Park.

Putting equipment in our homes will cost less per taxpayer than a new field house. Like the USD 497 facilities the field house = a long time tax increase.

Ahhhh yes another disguise for the Chamber of Commerce high dollar PLAY project. Taxpayer said NO to this project once!

Why is Lawrence economic growth lagging?

The Chamber went through the back door of USD 497 and got taxpayers for $20 million. This could not happen with that door being unlocked and opened with arms wide open.

There are places to work out all over town. There are rec centers,KU has a nice new operation,USD 497 has work out facilities and there are private work out centers.

Plus a bench and weights are not all that expensive and neither are cross-over elliptical trainers. As a matter of fact each home should have cross-over elliptical trainers as they are wonderful for bringing the knees and joints back to life. Bicycles are also a great source for low impact activity.

Putting equipment in our homes will cost less per taxpayer than a new field house. Like the USD 497 facilities the field house = a long time tax increase.

Lawrence has two indoor pools which is great low impact activity.

Why is the Chamber being so persisitent? They just love to spend OUR tax dollars all the while pretending to be fiscal conservatives? Don’t kid yourself this is all about adding one more new thing to the tax bill no matter how it is disguised without the chance to vote on it.

Where is the persistence when it comes to repairing streets and side walks?

Where is the persistence necessary for restoring the downtown central business district aka the best money maker in town?

Now I’m all for expanding the tourism industry BUT NOT when an activity requires a new multi-million dollar structure.

There is so much attention given to athletics but very little given to the adverse effects these activities have on knees and joints. What about that?

The city is laying people off yet there must be money hidden in the general fund somewhere cuz this will require new staff positions.

What’s wrong with parents organizing outdoor activities in the neighborhoods or at rec centers?

Again putting equipment in our homes will cost less per taxpayer than a new field house. Like the USD 497 facilities the field house = a long time tax increase.

City Hall makes taxpayers vote for library improvements but shoves NOT necessary projects in our faces without the chance to vote on it. This stinks.

City Hall obviously is not telling the truth about available tax dollars.

Richard Heckler 7 years, 12 months ago

Taxpayers keep this in mind. This will be getting into OUR tax dollar wallets.

National surveys (through American Farmland Trust) show that county costs in services required by farmland and open space generally is only 35 to 60¢ for every $1.00 in revenues they generate, producing a net gain for counties.

In contrast, residential use in counties costs $1.11 to $1.60 in services for every $1.00 generated.

This is more sprawl. Sprawl is a local big government tax dollar money hole.

4theHawkS 7 years, 12 months ago

This article just wreaks of yellow journalism! It is so sad but true what cait48 has said about needing a Child Services intervention. It should come as no surprise by now for anyone who pays attention to the exchanges of property around this town. The bait and switch gimmic has been used many times by numerous developers around town, most recently out at 6th and folks with talk about a Lowes just down the street from the dangerous zebras house. From womanizing playboy real estate slum lords to wannabe hotel Czars along with a poor media impersonation of William Randolph Hearst empire. These local businessmen frequently take advatange of having City Commissioners in their back pocket. It was only a matter of time before the School Board would get in on the action. Everyone learned how to get-in while the gettin's good after seeing what happened with the KU ticket scandle. If you don't think that Lawrence pays for the infrastructure that directly benefits the rich developers, just look at who paid 30% of the cost to build the Bauer Brook area for the good ole boys Compton and David Freeman.

SettingTheRecordStraight 7 years, 12 months ago

The city cannot possibly justify its plans to burden Lawrence taxpayers with a new $18 million library, let alone a $25 million wellness facility.

Based on the current mill levy, $43 million in new city expenditures will increase Lawrence property taxes by $478 per year for every $100,000 in property owned - for 20 years.

Does your family have an extra $500-$1,000 available per year for new taxes?

FanceeNancee 7 years, 12 months ago

I hope next time people get off their rears and go vote. I am tired of being the 26th person or so at my polling site with only a few hours left to vote. I can't afford to finance all these city improvements. I think it's time for the city to get creative and look for ways to make do and maintain what they have. Fix the city's infrastructure or you will have no one left here to tax. I wanna see a "Ramen Noodle" budget. You know, the kind you can tolerate for a while, and that gets you by until you can afford better?

overthemoon 7 years, 12 months ago

This is an interesting project and the McGrew's have been good shepherds of many sports related effort, especially tennis, through the years. And investment and spending money is critical to economic recovery.

That said, what is the logic of putting an exercise facility in a location at the far edge of town that requires just about every resident drive at least five miles to get to it? What about using existing school facilities that are under consideration for mothballing and are on public transit routes? Like the library idea and the arts district idea, this project does not recognize the ability to use the virtual community to draw people together. Smaller decentralized facilities (even homes) can be linked by means of the internet, lessening our need to drive, construct, heat and cool new buildings, and provide new infrastructure when what we have is crumbling.

overthemoon 7 years, 12 months ago

in fact, wouldn't it be amazing to have the library, arts district and wellness center be developed together to be mutually supportive, dynamic centers of overall community well being.....just sayin'.

4theHawkS 7 years, 12 months ago

one eye wilbur, while you make a few interesting and factual points, the piece of land directly East of Bella Serra is a wildlife reserve...therefore it is supposed to be overgrown and filled with vegetation!

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