News and notes from around town:
• It won’t exactly be Allen Fieldhouse but there are plans for a new basketball venue in Lawrence. Plans have been filed with the city to convert an industrial building at 940 E. 28th St. into a basketball training facility.
Matthew Downing, Jr. wants to use the building to house his business that provides one-on-one basketball instruction. Downing was a basketball player in the early 1990s for the University of Maryland and was one of the state’s top high school talents when he played for Atchison High. He’s also a former head coach at Lawrence’s Bishop Seabury Academy.
Downing said he plans to install hardwood courts in the building, which formerly housed a FedEx warehouse. He said there’s enough room to house one full court and one half-court. His target audience will be the youth basketball market, which has long complained that there is a lack of gym space in the community.
“It can be really tough to find a place to practice in this town,” Downing said.
School district gyms, he said, often are in use or can be expensive to use because school personnel must be paid to open and close the facility. The city’s recreation center space also is often full or sometimes is too adult-oriented for youth games.
“This is going to be a place for people under 18,” Downing said.
In addition to his training sessions — which start at $65 an hour and get cheaper as more sessions are bought — he’ll sell memberships to area youth who just want a place to shoot and practice on their own. Downing said he also plans to form club teams that will use the facility, and he will rent the facility out to other youth teams that need a place to practice.
He hopes to open the business by June. 1. The project does require several approvals from both the planning department and the Lawrence-Douglas County Planning Commission.
• Motorists on Sixth Street who get stuck behind a stop-and-go public transit bus may get some relief. City Manager David Corliss confirmed the city is studying the feasibility of adding a bus turnout lane for westbound traffic near the intersection of Sixth and Maine streets.
“We think it could help bus riders and the traveling public,” Corliss said.
But the deal isn’t done one yet. The city is still working to determine whether it has enough right-of-way to install the 200- to 300-foot long bus turnout lane without buying private property along the street. Discussions also have begun with the property owners along the route about how traffic would get closer to their front doors.
The city would like to do the project this summer at the same time that crews will be repaving Sixth Street from approximately Massachusetts to Iowa Street.
The project likely would cost around $200,000 and would be funded from a special 0.05 percent sales tax that voters approved in 2008 to enhance the transit service. City commissioners will be required to sign off on the project, likely this spring.
• If you like auctions and you like cooking, there’s a new opportunity for you in Lawrence. A Lawrence-based business that sells all types of new and used restaurant and bar equipment has a new location and is opening it up to the public. Banning Sales and Service has moved into a spot at 1050 E. 11th St., and will use the space as an auction house for restaurant and bar equipment.
Banning has been a home-based business in Lawrence for years, and also operated auctions out of a Topeka location. But owner Bruce Banning said he’s now looking to expand the business and decided to get a more traditional storefront space. He said Lawrence’s bar and restaurant business continues to grow, and he’s hoping to help local bars and restaurants keep more of their equipment purchases local.
“Lawrence loses a lot of wholesale business, and we would like to help change that,” Banning said.