A Chesty Lion stands proud in an unfinished stack of bricks along 19th Street, and whether the mascot gets to remain on its perch is set to be decided this evening at City Hall.
The Lawrence school district and its contractor, B.A. Green Construction Inc., are seeking permission to finish construction of its new scoreboard enclosure at the north end of the football stadium at Lawrence High School, 1901 La.
The district has permission to build the brick enclosure, but not to put up any signs — including the Lion logo already installed — facing 19th Street.
A request for a variance that would allow sign installation is up for approval tonight by the Lawrence Sign Code Board of Appeals, which meets at 6:30 at City Hall, Sixth and Massachusetts streets.
At least two neighbors oppose the request, and their neighborhood association continues to be frustrated by the district’s handling of ongoing construction issues at the athletics complex — a project that already has spurred neighborhood complaints and a lawsuit regarding noise, lights, drainage, landscaping and other issues.
The sign snag simply adds to the list.
“It’s just a fact: There are people who have heartburn over this whole thing,” said Tom Harper, a member of the Centennial Neighborhood Association’s steering committee. “This is another example of the school district seeking another variance to get this sports complex in a residential neighborhood. There have been numerous statements about how they would do things, and they haven’t followed through with them.
“The lack of trust here is huge, because their follow-through hasn’t been good. … This is just another example of the heartburn of the whole thing.”
The district actually has a building permit for the enclosure, and B.A. Green only stopped after it became clear, once the Lion logo had been installed, that they’d also need a permit for signs.
Typically the city issues a building permit for a structure, then a contractor — typically a sign company — comes in to get a permit for signs. This time, however, a single contractor was doing the entire project, and city officials didn’t advise them that they’d also need a sign permit.
“It’s partly our fault,” said Scott McCullough, the city’s planning director. “They thought they had approval for the whole thing.”
Turns out the proposed signs — the Lion, plus the yet-to-be-installed words “LAWRENCE HIGH SCHOOL” across the top — are both too large and too far above the ground to comply with city code. That’s why the district and B.A. Green now must seek a variance.
The district also wants to install lights on the sign, so that folks walking up to the stadium or otherwise passing by the complex could see the name and logo at night. The signs would face 19th Street, which carries 14,000 vehicles a day.
“It’s not like a Dillons sign or anything,” said Tom Bracciano, the district’s division director for operations and maintenance. “It’s nothing garish. It’s ambient lighting. It’s no different than putting a security light on it.”
The enclosure project is being overseen by the district, using money donated by LHS Building on Traditions, a booster group working to add an arched entryway to the stadium, ticket booths and the scoreboard enclosure as part of a package of upgrades to the school’s sports complex.