A recent event approved by the Lawrence City Commission may prove to be a unique shot in the arm to a Lawrence tradition that deserves a higher profile.
It certainly will be a unique shot put event.
City commissioners have signed off on a plan to close the intersection of Eighth and New Hampshire streets on April 20 to host an elite-level shot put competition as part of the Kansas Relays. Sand, gravel and a special shot put platform will be placed in the middle of the street, and world class athletes will compete for the Kansas Relays title in front of a downtown crowd. The following day, a long-jump event and mile race featuring top athletes also will be held downtown.
Kansas University officials believe the shot put competition will be a first-of-its-kind event in the United States. It evidently is creating some excitement in the shot put community. Currently, the No. 1, 3, 7, 14 and 22 ranked shot putters in the world are scheduled to compete.
The event should create some excitement in Lawrence circles too. It is good, and somewhat overdue, that KU and community leaders are working hard to promote the Kansas Relays. It is a great event that dates back to the 1920s, and is a good reminder of KU’s outstanding track and field history. For decades, KU track and field athletes often set the pace that other competitors tried to match.
Now, it appears that KU, the city and downtown are working to pick up the pace on making Kansas athletics an even bigger part of our draw as a vibrant, university community. Hopefully, the downtown events will help spur attendance at the main Relays venue, Memorial Stadium.
The event will be free to the public to attend, which is a positive sign that KU leaders are doing this for all the right reasons. While we still must be careful about when we choose to close down city streets, everyone involved with this event deserves congratulations for their creative thinking.
And, please excuse the pun, we hope this “puts” some excitement back into the relays. Even more so, we hope it puts us on a path of greater cooperation between Kansas Athletics and the broader community. Such a partnership could create many more world-class endeavors.