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City: New rec center should be $15 million investment

November 9, 2011

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Lawrence city commissioners on Tuesday tentatively answered one question about the idea of a new west Lawrence recreation center: About $15 million is how much the community should invest.

But at least two other questions emerged: Where should the new center be built, and can Kansas University basketball coach Bill Self’s foundation help the city raise up to $3 million in private money for the facility?

“It is time for the next generation of recreation facilities,” said Mayor Aron Cromwell. “I feel like we have done a pretty good job of running the town, and that affords us the ability to do projects like this when they come along.”

But the project is far from a done deal. Commissioners only gave staff members the authority to do preliminary work on the project. That will include making a recommendation on the best spot for the project. Parks and Recreation leaders have been promoting a city-owned site just north of Sixth Street and Wakarusa Drive.

But on Tuesday evening, the city was told a landowner was willing to donate a larger 50-acre site at the northwest corner of Sixth Street and the South Lawrence Trafficway. The site — the owner of the property wasn’t specifically identified in a letter to commissioners, but local businessmen Duane and Steve Schwada previously have been connected with the property — could provide the city more opportunity to grow the center in the future and might serve as a catalyst for retail and other development at the Sixth and SLT intersection.

Commissioners also directed staff to have more detailed conversations with Self’s Assists Foundation. The foundation has made an informal pledge of $1 million to the project, but there has been some indication that Self could help raise another $2 million in private funds.

A majority of commissioners said they wanted to create an agreement with Self’s foundation about a plan that would involve the city committing $12 million to the project, but only if an additional $3 million could be raised through Self’s foundation and other private donors. Commissioners moved forward on the project after more than an hour of public comment, with most speakers saying the city was in need of more indoor recreation space.

“I came down tonight very skeptical about whether I would support this,” said City Commissioner Bob Schumm. “But I’ve been convinced there is a real need. I’m willing to move one step further down the line and see if the fundraising will really take hold.”

Commissioners were not unanimous in moving forward. Commissioner Mike Amyx voted against the idea. He said he was concerned about possible declines in the city’s tax base that would make paying for the project more difficult in the future. He also said the community needed to have a discussion about how this project fit in with other city priorities.

“There’s no doubt in my mind that we need the space,” Amyx said. “I’m concerned about the operating costs. I don’t want to come up with a shortfall in a couple of years.”

Commissioners left many details of the project open-ended but did provide some guidance on several topics, including:

• The city should be thinking of a center with at least five gyms, an indoor walking track, a cardio and weight room, space for wellness activities, and an aerobics and dance area.

• Public funding wouldn’t come from new taxes but rather would come from the city’s share of an existing countywide sales tax that is being used to fund the Health Department building and several Parks and Recreation Department projects. Many of those projects will be paid for by 2016, which will free up the sales tax dollars.

• Any user fees at the center likely should be limited to classes and use of the cardio and weight rooms. The city would need to establish a program to waive the fees for people who don’t have the ability to pay.

Commissioners didn’t provide any specific direction on the issue of where the center should be located. But several commissioners said they did want to consider a site that could allow the center to serve as a regional attraction for tournaments that draw out-of-town teams.

“This is Lawrence, Kansas, and the home of Kansas University basketball,” Commissioner Hugh Carter said. “We can really do a lot here, if that is what we want to do. One thing I would be worried about is thinking too small.”

Comments

DrQuack 2 years, 5 months ago

The proposal to build this rec center definitely should be put to the public to vote on. While it sounds like a nice thing, it is not "free." I cannot afford to give the city more money in the form of property taxes. I am not rich by any means.

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Stain 2 years, 5 months ago

Why does the city commission ALWAYS do what the developers and realtors want, no matter what it costs the taxpayers? Something smells.

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Stain 2 years, 5 months ago

Of course lots of citizens came forward at the meeting to demand a new rec center!!!!! This always happens when developers and realtors want something: they trot out people to support it.

Brownback wants to cut state funding for education and put more of the responsibility to fund it on local taxes.

For the city to be spending money on a frill like this is unconscionable. The economy is not bouncing back any time soon. And education, already cut to the bone, will be cut more, meaning we will have to raise local taxes to make up what Brownback took away from education.

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januarygirl 2 years, 5 months ago

HOW ABOUT A NEW WEST LAWRENCE HOMELESS SHELTER, CLOSER TO THE SERVICES NEEDED .

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Kookamooka 2 years, 5 months ago

In addition.. Few people, statistically, play basketball. I'm not going to the rec center to shoot hoops with my mommy friends. I would strap on some ice skates and cruise around a rink with my kids. I went almost every day when I was a kid (in another town-in a more cultured state) Imagine the out of state attention a rink in Lawrence would get, not to mention a Hockey culture. It's great for Self to help raise money, and I'm sure courts would be a big part of the plan, but let's think outside the box too.

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Kookamooka 2 years, 5 months ago

I agree with Pace. The city had a masterplan for a rec center near clinton lake complete with an ice skating rink. THAT...I could get behind. We lag far behind other communities in the Winter Sports category. Every kid in Lawrence has a basketball hoop on their driveway. Invest in a sport OTHER than Basketball.

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pace 2 years, 5 months ago

yes to good teachers but no, no more stupid sports worship.

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newmommiebrazil 2 years, 5 months ago

instead of building all these hobbs taylor loft style buildings, let's build a visigoth building without anything inside. let's make lawrence a interesting looking town.

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Godot 2 years, 5 months ago

Dang, you are sooooo tiring.

Okay, show me the other definitions of "profit," that are not associated with government and/or socialist/marxist organizations. Because, as far as I can remember, "profit" is a term that was originated by, Spaghetti-monster forgive me, "capitalists." So, unless you are a capitalist, you don't get to change the meaning of a capitalists' word. You have to invent your own word for taking other peoples' money to give to other people to make them feel happy.......for a very short period of time......until they run out of money and demand more from other people.

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brink75 2 years, 5 months ago

First of all, when will there be no dividing line of "WEST LAWRENCE"? I live west of Iowa and want growth.
The Library expansion is dumb. I voted NO. Why not have a Rec Center for WEST Lawrence? Get off the $$$$$. The very same simpletons that voted yes on the library, would vote no on growth. But wait, they actually don't own property in town. So thank you freeloaders for upping my property tax so you can wait on that one copy of a book to be ready.
"PRINT IS DEAD"

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Godot 2 years, 5 months ago

I call for a ban on the use of the word "investment" by government officials who want to sugar-coat the spending of other people's money on the offcials' pet projects.

Let us examine the definition of "investment."

"Definitions of investment (n) in·vest·ment [ in véstmənt ] Audio player

use of money for future profit: the outlay of money, e.g. by depositing it in a bank or by buying stock in a company, with the object of making a profit
money invested: an amount of money invested in something for the purpose of making a profit
something in which money is invested: something, e.g. a company, endeavor, or property, that money is invested in with the goal of making a profit."

Can our city commissioners demonstrate that this $15,000,000 expenditure will result in a profit? On paper? With facts? Using real math?

Before our esteemed and brilliant commissioners calculate the estimated "profit," will they assure us that no more than the $15,000,000 will be expended for upkeep, maintenance, utilities, staff and benefits?

Or will our genius commissioners expect the taxpayers to believe that the benefit gained by western Lawrence residents for not having to pay a for-profit fitness facility for their recreation to be "profit?"

Admit it. Call it what it is. This is not an investment, it is a giant drain on our fragile community.

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Godot 2 years, 5 months ago

Every member of this out-of-control, beyond reason, completely mindless city commission needs to study what just happened today Jefferson County, Alabama.

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2011-11-09/alabama-s-jefferson-county-files-for-u-s-s-biggest-municipal-bankruptcy.html

If the City and County Commissioners do not cease and desist with their insane spending agendas, the City of Lawrence and Douglas County will soon follow the trail blazed by their fellow fools who govern Jefferson County, Alabama.

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password 2 years, 5 months ago

why is building this new facility so important to Bill Self? How about upgrading the existing facilities? I think there are too many other issues in our community that need to be addressed to help out the youth. His "Assists Foundation" donation will only help the ones that can afford to go (or get) to this place in west Lawrence.

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George_Braziller 2 years, 5 months ago

“This is Lawrence, Kansas, and the home of Kansas University basketball,” Commissioner Hugh Carter said.

And how does that even factor into the discussion Hugh?

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toe 2 years, 5 months ago

Chump change. Just wondering, who are the chumps?

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Ron Holzwarth 2 years, 5 months ago

"City: New rec center should be $15 million investment" "the city committing $12 million to the project"

I am NOT an accountant, but I tend to think that if Warren Buffett were to be consulted, he would agree with this statement:

It is not a good idea to borrow money in order to invest it.

(That had a lot to do with the collapse of the stock market on October 12, 1929, in case anyone has forgotten.)

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ToriFreak13 2 years, 5 months ago

If this is really being considered as an "investment", shouldn't there be market research done? Shouldn't that research include the competition? With plenty of free options in Lawrence, the ease of owning enough equipment to work out at home, and the fact that we already have 3 city ran facilities along with outdoor rec areas, and the high schools and University have their own high end facility....this investment is insane. Now look at how many other private gyms have come and gone over the last 10+ years. Even YMCA has to stop and think about whether the market can sustain one of their units. Behind the curve? Deadman's curve.

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Steve Jacob 2 years, 5 months ago

Merrill is right (shoot me know) about soon getting a large tax increase to the school. That is coming.

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skinny 2 years, 5 months ago

Those with money will get what they want. It will be bigger facility. Who cares! They are paying for it! Quit being a crybaby!

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classclown 2 years, 5 months ago

I agree with bozo. Considering how this town is all about equality and non discrimination, there is no need for the city to build a facility that is anything beyond what exists at the facilities we already have.

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waka3 2 years, 5 months ago

dude awsome another place to hang

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classclown 2 years, 5 months ago

beatnik (anonymous) says…

i think if you can have a parking garage and library for 19 million you should be able to have a rec center for a heck of a lot less than15 million.

============================================

Maybe they're going to include a Starbucks so that the pretentious types can sit around sipping their lattes and espressos while engaging in deep conversations about subjects they have no clue about.

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irvan moore 2 years, 5 months ago

i think if you can have a parking garage and library for 19 million you should be able to have a rec center for a heck of a lot less than15 million.

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Keith Richards 2 years, 5 months ago

This town needs rec facilities on the west side. I would love for this to be built and would gladly support my tax dollars going toward this project.

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consumer1 2 years, 5 months ago

Get Rid of Aaron Cromwell. He duped the public into voting for him now we find is really just a "progressive" wasting city tax dollars for his group of busybodies.

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youngjayhawk 2 years, 5 months ago

Would love to see a rec center built near the high school and indoor pool; we could use the facility in northwest Lawrence. I agree with conservative, the fees should be the same for all rec facilities. Appreciate the city commisioners exploring this issue.

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Number_1_Grandma 2 years, 5 months ago

Really disappointed in Bob Schumm for voting for this right now. Thank you Mike Amyx for thinking of us taxpayers and the possible hardship this might create down the road.

On the same note, Cromwell and Carter are showing how worthless peoples votes were in the elections!

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jafs 2 years, 5 months ago

Also, of course, a countywide sales tax designed to pay for other things could be eliminated when it's paid for them, rather than extended.

If I vote for a sales tax for specific projects, I'm not voting in favor of extending it indefinitely for other, new projects not voted on.

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just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 2 years, 5 months ago

If they want to build something, build a smaller facility similar to the ones in E. Lawrence or at Holcomb. If they're going to build a megaplex, do it by expanding Holcomb, which is much more centrally located.

But the main point of this facility is to drive development in W. Lawrence, and Self is a big investor in real estate out there. So I doubt that his foundation would go for that.

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Windemere 2 years, 5 months ago

Would like an answer to this question: If there is a huge need for gym space in town (and there is), why are other types of facilities bundled with this project, i.e. aerobics rooms, a track, etc? Why can't we consider a project that is scaled back, e.g. 4 to 6 gyms, that is designed in a way that would make it as easy as possible to expand later to include other facilities? Is this like buying a Mercedes we can't afford when a Honda Civic will do?

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skinny 2 years, 5 months ago

Build it at West 6th Street and the SLT and then charge $5.00 a day to use all the rec facilities in this town! Nothing is free including your health care!!

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superduper 2 years, 5 months ago

I would be very disappointed if they put it NW of 6th and SLT. At least by the high school it is within walking or biking distance for many in addition to being close to some retail and food.

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smitty 2 years, 5 months ago

“There’s no doubt in my mind that we need the space,” Amyx said. “I’m concerned about the operating costs. I don’t want to come up with a shortfall in a couple of years.”

When does the discussion address the YMCA being a partner in the operation Which can solve any concern that Amyx expresses?

No to....northwest corner of Sixth Street and the South Lawrence Trafficway....is this for Topeka and all points west or Lawrence?

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DRsmith 2 years, 5 months ago

Excellent. They should really build up that area so it takes even longer to get through Lawrence.

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Benjamin Roberts 2 years, 5 months ago

Headline: "City: New rec center should be $15 million investment"

Whether or not the City builds a new recreation center ... Can you quit giving my money to architects, designers, builders, etc. and calling it an investment? Please, quit peeing on my leg and telling me that it is raining!

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cato_the_elder 2 years, 5 months ago

As usual, Mike Amyx is the only sittting commissioner with any common sense. This is a ridiculous proposal to undertake at this time.

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Jayhawks64 2 years, 5 months ago

This facility should be built. Just take a weekend trip to KC or Topeka and see how many out of state tags are in the parking lot of thier wonderful ball fields and soccer facilities. Lawrence is way behind the curve when it comes to youth sports facilities. Plus the NCAA has changed the rules regarding on campus facility uses. Kids 13 and older will not be able to play in tournaments on college campuses making Robinson, Ambler and Allen unavailable for the tournaments we have now for basketball.

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conservative 2 years, 5 months ago

While there may be a demand for the facilities I still say the economy in this city makes this a poorly timed proposal. if however they do build it then the costs for use need to be the same as any other rec center in the city. Why should users of the new rec center have to pay a fee to use the cardio and weight room when the other rec centers don't charge a fee?

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FalseHopeNoChange 2 years, 5 months ago

Rec Center, Library, T no problem.

Just raise property taxes. Occupy! Tax the rich. Make them pay!

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Eride 2 years, 5 months ago

The infrastructure in this town is crumbling and we are wasting $18 million on a library expansion and now considering $15 million for a Rec Center.

There needs to be a discussion of priorities. The economy isn't going to be getting any better any time soon around these parts. The tax base isn't showing any signs that it will be growing. The state government is showing every intent to try to shift state burdens onto the local tax base. This is absurd. Thankfully at least one city commissioner is in his right mind.

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Richard Heckler 2 years, 5 months ago

Taxpayers are essentially ignored. This Rec Center project should be put to a vote for it is a quite a long term new expense. The decision is based strictly on speculation.

WE have a large tax bill from USD 497 over the new sports facilities. We're about to embark on another long term tax bill for the same reasons. Estimated $40 million just for construction. Next how much more will we spend on operational expenses for the decades in the future? Nobody has a clue.

Governor Sam Brownback and his legislature will likely put more of the cost of public schools largely on the backs of each school district. Where will these additional tax dollars come from?

Governor Brownback and the legislature have not sent any tax dollars back to Lawrence. So again are Lawrence,Ks taxpayers ready for all of this new expense coming our way?

Taxpayers are essentially ignored. This Rec Center project should be put to a vote for it is a quite a long term expense.

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Richard Heckler 2 years, 5 months ago

This economy is far from bouncing back anytime soon perhaps for many years. Mike Amyx is the smart cookie of the bunch thus far. This project has been on the table from day one not as a need for the neighborhoods but as speculation for drawing new dollars to town and perhaps sell a few new homes.

USD 497 $20 million expenditure was for the same reason. All of it is about PLAY that was presented by the Chamber of Commerce. This is about a big ticket item for the long term and will come with big ticket operational expenses till death do us part.

PLAY: 1. Should the city spend $20 million or more on the PLAY project? http://www2.ljworld.com/polls/2007/may/should_city_spend_20_million_or_more_play_project/

  1. Should a Westside rec center be approved? http://www2.ljworld.com/polls/2009/jul/should-city-build-recreation-center-west-lawrence/

  2. What kind of new recreation facility do you want for Lawrence? http://www2.ljworld.com/polls/2007/apr/recreation_survey/

  3. Let me get this right. The Lawrence school district approved funds for two sports stadiums to be built ($400,000 each) and yet Superintendent Rick Doll discusses teachers not having items they need (Journal-World, page 1A, Oct. 19)? What’s wrong with this picture?

Realistically, how many kids are going to play sports professionally? Or even in college? Yet every child needs a solid education. To my way of thinking, the priorities are turned around. It’s quite unsettling. http://www2.ljworld.com/news/2009/oct/22/school-priorities/#c1027186

If the city wants to promote strong economic growth why then do city officials ignore the public school funding situation. Generally new residents are concerned about the public education system which is going down hill due to major cuts in spending from the state. This problem is not a secret. Gov Sam Brownback will keep this problem in the nationwide news for many years to come as if the Kansas legislature did not do enough damage on its' own.

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