Archive for Thursday, June 30, 2011

Deal near for KU Coach Bill Self to donate $1 million for new west Lawrence recreation center

June 30, 2011


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A deal is in the works for Kansas University men’s basketball coach Bill Self to make a more than $1 million donation to spur construction of a new west Lawrence recreation center.

Mayor Aron Cromwell confirmed the city soon will start discussing an offer made by Self’s Assists Foundation to donate $1 million to a recreation center project and for Self to donate his time to help raise another $2 million in private funds.

“We’re just waiting in the wings to hear from the city, and hopefully that will be sooner rather than later,” said Erin Zimney, executive director of the Assists Foundation. “Nothing has been formalized yet, but I can tell you that we would love to support a project like this.”

Zimney said Self and the foundation have sensed a lack of available gym space and other indoor recreation space in the city, particularly on the west side.

Cromwell said the city is interested in considering a partnership.

“I feel like this could be a really good way to leverage some private money for a needed project,” Cromwell said.

Self’s donation, however, would pay for only a fraction of the center. Cromwell estimated the total costs for the project may be close to $15 million.

Project years away

City leaders have had preliminary discussions about using existing sales tax money to finance the remainder of the project. The city last year finished paying off the Indoor Aquatic Center, which freed up about $260,000 a year. By 2016, the city also will have paid off the Eagle Bend Golf Course and the Community Health Center. Those two projects will free up another $1.2 million in funds.

City staff members previously have recommended a 40-acre site of city-owned property that is just north of the Walmart at Sixth Street and Wakarusa Drive as a prime location for a West Lawrence center, which they have said would fill a gap in the city’s recreation offerings.

City Manager David Corliss said if the project moves forward — it likely will be discussed by city commissioners in the next two to three weeks — construction wouldn’t begin until at least 2013. The city would use 2012 to concentrate on design and private fundraising. Cromwell said the city wouldn’t issue any new debt for the project until private fundraising was completed.

City funding

The project comes forward, however, at a time when city commissioners will be contemplating a rise in the city’s property tax rate to fund other needs. The mill levy in 2012 is expected to increase by at least 1.7 mills to pay for a voter-approved expansion of the Lawrence Public Library. Commissioners also are expected to consider an additional property tax increase to fund more police officers.

The countywide sales tax — approved by voters in 1994 — allows the sales tax collections to be used for any governmental purpose. But Corliss and Cromwell said they would be hesitant to recommend that the freed up sales tax money be used to fund police needs or other projects not related to parks and recreation. That’s because parks and recreation projects were a selling point used to convince voters to support the sales tax 17 years ago.

“We have the legal authority to use it however we want,” Cromwell said of the sales tax dollars. “But the moral authority I don’t think is there to use it for anything other than recreation.”

In 1994, voters were told the new 1 percent sales tax would fund: Parks and recreation projects; the Community Health Building that houses Bert Nash and the Health Department; construction of Douglas County Jail; and to provide property tax relief. Since then, the city also has begun spending about $600,000 per year of sales tax money to fund street projects.

Potential plans

Formal plans for a new recreation center haven’t been developed, but Parks and Recreation leaders have been discussing concept plans for the past several years. Features that previously have been mentioned as possibilities for a new center include:

• Six full-size gymnasiums that could be used to accommodate basketball, volleyball and indoor soccer. The fieldhouse concept has been touted as a potential economic development benefit if it can be used to help draw more youth tournaments to the city.

• A quarter-mile walking/jogging track that would be built on a mezzanine above the gym space.

• Space for advanced gymnastics equipment.

• Areas for dance, aerobics, fitness and wellness programs.


Terry Sexton 6 years, 8 months ago

A project like this is great for our community. Big KU kudos to Coach Self for stepping up to the, the foul line & making the front end on this one.

Bob Forer 6 years, 8 months ago

A noble gesture. But what about the disadvantaged kids on the east side? Let's remember, a disproportionate number of KU basketball players come from the ranks of the underprivileged.

BKRJMG 6 years, 8 months ago

I'm from the east side and there are multiple rec centers over there (east Lawrence rec center and community building). So now you can be at rest for the under privileged bc I could tell it was a major concern.

skinny 6 years, 8 months ago

Correct me if I am worng but isn't there a Rec Center already on the east side of Lawrence?

Bob Forer 6 years, 8 months ago

I simply raised the question, "what about the disadvantaged kids." I have no idea whether they are adequately funded. Just raising a point for discussion.

Douglas Yetman 6 years, 8 months ago

While there is the East Lawrence Rec Center, it is NOTHING along the lines of what is being discussed here. It is precisely the kind of rec center that you would expect to be in a lower income area. Frankly it is a dump...or used to be.

That being said, it seems logical that something like this would be built on the west side of Lawrence as that is where much of the city is growing.

Maybe a little bit of Coach Self's $$ could be used to revitalize the center on the east side.

independent_rebel 6 years, 8 months ago

I don't think the East Lawrence Center is a dump. It's better than the Holcom Rec Center. The Community Building is also on the east side. Just don't leave anything of value in plain sight at the East Lawrence Center or there is a good chance it won't be there when you leave.

lhsalum 6 years, 8 months ago

What we need to remeber is that towns grow west, of course the better facilities are going to be on the west side of town. Just look at FS compared to LHS for an example ( I am not trying to start an argument here; just simply an example).

John Hamm 6 years, 8 months ago

Hey goofballs! You''re finally getting stuff paid off. Leave it paid off. "ohhhhhhhhh we're gonna pick up a little money so let's go spend it!"

cato_the_elder 6 years, 8 months ago

The 1% countywide sales tax was ginned up in 1994 by USD 497 and the Lawrence City Commission to build a state-of-the-art swimming pool at the proposed new high school, also voted on in 1994, so that the Lawrence Board of Education wouldn't have to include the substantial cost of a new swimming pool when twisting voters' arms into voting for another high school in what was projected at the time to become the most affluent part of Lawrence. As a result, county residents living outside of USD 497 unwittingly voted for a countywide sales tax that was conceived solely in order to get the second high school vote in Lawrence, a fact of which most county voters were completely unaware. Despite efforts to educate the County Commissioners as to what was really going on, they were asleep at the switch.

The pool is there, just as planned, and enormous development has occurred as the result of the high school vote. Most of those who voted for the sales tax are to this day unaware of how they were used by certain of the key proponents of the second high school bond issue. Those who by now have made a great deal of money from the second high school project, both directly and indirectly, thank all of those who in 1994 voted for the countywide sales tax so that USD 497 could fake austerity and represent to the voters that a new swimming pool at the proposed second high school was way down the road.

Andrew Michael 6 years, 8 months ago

The east Lawrence center is actually really nice. I play basketball there and at the community building. Both are kept very clean and are highly used. The community building could be larger, but look at it's location. It would be impossible to expand that building. The town is growing west for sure, and there is nothing relatively close for anyone on that side of 15th. Any children/teens on the west side of town will have a hard time finding their way to a free facility. It will provide a location for the youth summer camp program as well. Just because some families incomes are higher than others, does not mean that they shouldn't be benefiting from facilities like this. Their tax money is at use too, so why should they be left out of having something closer to home. Also saying that only wealthy people would use it is foolish. That would be like saying only poor people use the east Lawrence or community building. There are plenty of people I know who utilize both of those facilities for City League sports, lifting weights, or just simply exercising. In all honestly I would rather the money go here than the new library, as it would get a lot more use from the community. Not to mention this would be a great asset for holding youth tournaments/games on this side of town for a change. I'm not sure how much revenue some of the bigger youth basketball tournaments could bring in, but I'm sure you could put that money towards paying for the facilities expenses.

newmedia 6 years, 8 months ago

Very nice gesture coach Self. Thank you.

Jimo 6 years, 8 months ago

I hate to go all libertarian here but this is the silliest things since a city owned golf course.

If the City is concerned, why not take the money, put it in a trust fund and then dole out a portion each year in vouchers for qualifying and deserving people who need assistance? They could then take those vouchers and buy recreation in the community. Start slowly at first to allow the market to adjust but in a few years you could have a thriving community with plenty of options and specialized choices for every taste.

Is there something about the "gym" industry that prevents providers from supplying customers if the financing aspect isn't a barrier? This is exactly the type of non-core, one-size, subsidize everyone regardless of need governmental activity that gives government a bad name.

fargo 6 years, 8 months ago

Agree this is a terrific gesture from Coach Self and wise use of funds that help provide much needed resource that will impact healthy lifestyles in the community. It's an opportunity for a private-public partnership to build a facility that so many people of all ages in this community can use. I think we tend to get hung up on the advantages in one part of the city versus the other. The city is not that big. I think have this kind of facility will help make Lawrence a much more attractive location for families to live and be active.

riverdrifter 6 years, 8 months ago

Proof-positive that no good deed goes unpunished -at least not from a pinhead like you.

onceajhawkalwaysajhawk 6 years, 8 months ago

It is always frustrating to read how people will jump at the chance to scream about the glass being half empty.. There is a need for recreation on the west side AND there are underprivileged folks who live west of Mass St. There might be ideas of how to combine USD497 and the city needs to make the investment more efficient, but the need is there..

Richard Heckler 6 years, 8 months ago

Rec centers in the past have come in around $7 million.

Which means taxpayers need to prepare themselves for another $15 million tax increase = the never ending PLAY project which if my memory serves me well was to be quite expensive and quite extensive. How will PLAY ever pay back the taxpayers?

Where is the money?

On top of the $100 million sewage treatment plant tax increase WHICH will bring on further tax increases with the building of new homes that which do not generate enough revenue to cover the cost of demands from a municipality which in essence = a tax increase.

On top of the $20 million PLAY tax increase attached to the USD 497 school district .

On top of the new expense attached to new annexation

On top of the tax increases THAT WERE approved by the taxpayers

All new tax dollar expenses should be approved by the taxpayers.

I say the above is more about the sale of homes in a market that is so depressed it will take years and years to recover. In an existing market that is overloaded it makes no sense to keep empty homes that pay less back than occupied homes. Some will say they will generate property taxes BUT ONLY if the developers and real estate industry pays the taxes.

I say a lot of the above is to make it appear as if there is more demand for new retail than truly exists which in reality is fraud.

Meanwhile home market values continue to drop. While property taxes increase. Let's NOT forget county assessed value and market value can be two very different animals.

Where is the money?

7texdude 6 years, 8 months ago

First, this is a very nice gesture by coach Self. He is such a good man.

Second, it sure would be nice if we could go at least six months before someone promotes a new building or project that needs to be funded by city tax dollars. Will this town ever realize the economic reality of our time?

jafs 6 years, 8 months ago

How is spending $14 million of tax money to leverage $1 million a great deal?

What if we put to a vote the question of how, if at all, those tax dollars should be spent, or if they should simply be returned to taxpayers?

Richard Heckler 6 years, 8 months ago

87 SRS paychecks will be moving or at least some of the spending will most certainly.

So how many government pay checks has Lawrence lost??? in the past 6-7 months?

How many more paychecks will be lost in the coming months and next three years?

How many Lawrence people have been cut by city hall?

And Lawrence WANTS to build a new $15 million rec center after blowing $20 million on the USD 497 sports fiasco. The PLAY projects are for who?

Some Lawrence residents will be moving closer to work cuz gas gets expensive and commuting is not that much fun.

Losing jobs and population will make tax dollar projects tough to pay for...

Better put this matter to a vote. Once opened it will cost more money to operate...

Flap Doodle 6 years, 8 months ago

I'd swear that I've seen most of the text of this copy/paste masterpiece on another thread today on this award-winning website.

Flap Doodle 6 years, 8 months ago

Sorry, I was talking about merrill's post. Should have been more clear.

BigPrune 6 years, 8 months ago

SO Lawrence gets $1 Million in a private donation then makes up $14 Million through taxes for a rec center (and this will happen), but the leftist "progressives" would be unwilling to put up $9 Million in taxes for a $250 Million plant and jobs that pay $40,000/year?

Stuart Sweeney 6 years, 8 months ago

I thought Bill Self could not reach the level of Roy Williams when he came here. Time and again he has proven me wrong as he has done this time. We a so fortunate to have a man of his caliber in our Jayhawk community. Thank you Bill!

Jim Phillips 6 years, 8 months ago

I think it's great that Coach Self is donating $1,000,000.00 for the kids in Lawrence. Cudos, Coach. Having said that, if he can afford to donate that much money, he obviously can afford it. What else does he do for a paycheck besides coach a college basketball team? Anybody wonder why college tuition is so high or why tuition needs to be raised every year? Just askin'.

xclusive85 6 years, 8 months ago

Ok, I'll tackle this. First, obviously if he can afford to donate that much money he can afford it. Reading that about made me puke. Secondly, Bill Self does much more than just coach. He does many camps, some of them for children that participate in the special olympics. He has to do T.V. appearances and press conferences. He runs the whole men's basketball program. He has to recruit. He interacts with the students. He helps run charities. I am sure there are more, but you get the idea.

Anybody wonder why college tuition is so high or why tuition needs to be raised every year? No, I don't wonder. I know why. The legislature is cutting funding to the Universities. Costs are rising trying to keep up with many different things such as maintenance of buildings and new technologies. It is not because of Bill Self. He gets paid by KU Athletics, which is a separate entitiy from the University.

pace 6 years, 8 months ago

Good for Bill Self, putting up funds and effort to help realize something he feels a need for. I have no interest in advising him where he should be donating money or better volunteering his time. He seems to be following his heart and mind. If someone want to boost for improvements on the East side of town I would certainly support those too. There are many needs, if you are sitting around thinking that someone who is doing something should do something else, consider doing that thing yourself. Sometimes all it takes is starting.

Sunny Parker 6 years, 8 months ago

Why do liberals hate people with money and believe they deserve to take their money from them?

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