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Archive for Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Group urges city to make headway on rec center

October 26, 2011

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Lawrence city commissioners are moving closer to a $15 million decision on a new recreation center, thanks in part to a friendly press applied by Kansas University basketball coach Bill Self.

City commissioners on Tuesday tentatively agreed to discuss at their Nov. 8 meeting whether to begin moving forward on a new recreation center for west Lawrence. The new timeline comes after Self’s Assists Foundation sent a letter to city officials indicating that the foundation’s plans to donate $1 million to the project would no longer be moving forward unless the city showed new signs of seriousness about the project.

City commissioners responded with some urgency, almost like a Jayhawk team coming out of a timeout.

“We’re going to have to come up with some answers on what we’re willing to spend on a recreation center,” said Mayor Aron Cromwell. “I think we’re going to have to figure out what we’re going to do here in the next couple of weeks.”

When commissioners discuss the subject in two weeks, they won’t set anything in stone. Instead, commissioners are expected to discuss whether they think a $15 million recreation center/fieldhouse project could fit into the city’s near-term debt plans. Next steps could involve seeking proposals from architects to develop specific plans for a facility and to receive proposals from fundraisers who could help solicit funding from private donors as well.

A representative from Self’s Assist Foundation assured commissioners that the foundation’s letter wasn’t meant as a sign that the foundation’s enthusiasm for the project had cooled. Miles Schnaer, a local auto dealer and member of the foundation’s board, said Self was very interested in following through on the foundation’s informal pledge of $1 million. He said Self also wants to lend his name and time to help raise additional funds from the public at large.

“We’re ready to do something, and this project meets so many goals of the foundation,” Schnaer said. “We just want to know that the city is committed to it. If the city is not committed to it, we would move on. But if the city is committed to it, we will do what we have committed to do.”

Now the ball is in the city’s court. All five commissioners were in agreement to bring the issue back up in two weeks, but it was unclear that a majority could support the idea of a multimillion dollar recreation project during this economy.

Commissioners Hugh Carter and Bob Schumm both said they wanted a thorough analysis of what other projects the city might have to put on hold if they were to move forward with a recreation center.

“It is a lot of money in bad economic times,” Schumm said. “And we’re committing a lot of money for a long period of time to a single project for parks and recreation.”

Exactly what a recreation center/fieldhouse project would include would get hashed out in more detail in the future. But members of the city’s Parks and Recreation Advisory Board told commissioners that a facility should include at least five gyms in order to meet both community needs and to give the city a chance to host regional or national youth basketball tournaments.

Other amenities likely would include an area for cardio and weight training equipment and a walking/jogging track.

Schnaer said Self was particularly excited about the chance to bring some major youth basketball tournaments to Lawrence.

“His ability to help us bring some high-profile tournaments to town is pretty unique,” Schnaer said.

Jana Dobbs, chairwoman of the city’s Parks and Recreation Advisory Board, said her research had found that the economic impact of youth basketball and volleyball tournaments could be significant. She cited a study done by Texas A&M professors that found a single 120-team youth basketball tournament in College Station, Texas, produced $420,000 in direct spending in the city. Dobbs said a new Lawrence facility could attract several large tournaments a year.

“I think the type of dollars we’re talking about would represent a pretty good return on our investment,” Dobbs said.

Commissioner Mike Dever expressed some optimism the city would find a way to build a quality center for significantly less than the $15 million estimate put forward by Lawrence architecture firm Gould Evans. Dever said he had seen recent recreation centers constructed for about $105 per square foot, while the city’s estimates anticipated costs of more than $140 per square foot.

“I don’t think we’re at the point of saying how many gyms we want or anything like that, but we do need to decide whether we’re willing to commit some money to this project,” Dever said.

Comments

Gandalf 2 years, 11 months ago

I fail to see how any recreation center can cost as much as 3, 45,000 sq/ft elementary schools.

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poolside 2 years, 11 months ago

Here Here!

And let's not put a big Wal Mart or a Lowe's out there when we need the space for FIVE gyms.

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poolside 2 years, 11 months ago

Here Here!

And let's not put a big Wal Mart or a Lowe's out there when we need the space for FIVE gyms.

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fancy80 2 years, 11 months ago

"It's a lot of money in bad economic times" said Schumm...Really?? Didn't seem to stop them from ramming a 18 Million dollar library down our throats.

This actually makes more sense to me than the new library based on the studies of possible monies that could be generated for the city.

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somebodynew 2 years, 11 months ago

While I agree with you, and for more than just the money angle, there is one problem: We already have the 18M library deal. We have to live with that debt.

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jafs 2 years, 11 months ago

The library issue was voted on, and a majority of those who voted voted for it.

That hardly constitutes "ramming it down our throats".

I voted against it, by the way.

Will they put the rec center issue up for a vote?

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2 years, 11 months ago

Sorry about that. Meant to link to it last night. Here is a link to the letter: http://www.lawrenceks.org/study_sessions/2011/10-25-11/assists_foundation_ltr_tabling_discussions.pdf

Thanks, Chad Lawhorn Journal-World

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kernal 2 years, 11 months ago

Why do you all even bother to comment on this? Whether you like it or not, the folks with the bucks in this burg have spoken and this will be built, regardless of what most of you think about it.

Money and the short-sighted rule in Lawrence.

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lunacydetector 2 years, 11 months ago

what will the east side of town demand in return for the west side getting something so expensive and large? let's hear what that will be first. a million dollars isn't even 10% of the cost.

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jesse499 2 years, 11 months ago

The East and North are step children they get what they get and like it.

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OutlawJHawk 2 years, 11 months ago

East Lawrence has their gym, the East Lawrence Center.

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impska 2 years, 10 months ago

They spend East Lawrence's share on downtown. As for North Lawrence - I assumed that the city was hoping it would eventually cease to exist if they just threw construction project after construction project at the bridge, until the people who live across that bridge explode from frustration.

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Getaroom 2 years, 10 months ago

So, bitter Sarah Stratton, you are against infrastructure upgrades and future safety of the bridge over immediate convenience? Makes sense if you are a Republican and or Neocon I guess. Just say NO to anything remotely connected to the common good and more for what, BIg Pharma, Big Corps, Wall Street cheats? If you voted for Brownbackward you got what you deserve then.

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conservative 2 years, 11 months ago

Bill we appreciate the offer, and hopefully you and your foundation will be willing to help if this project becomes a reality in the future. But in the here and now this city cannot afford this project.

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conservative 2 years, 10 months ago

I know that the city is at the upper limit of it's self imposed spending cap, that we are already committed to a 18 million dollar library, and that as bad as this city is at attracting new businesses the last thing we should do is start another multi-million dollar project that will require raised our already high property taxes.

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just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 2 years, 11 months ago

"Lawrence city commissioners are moving closer to a $15 million decision on a new recreation center, thanks in part to a friendly press applied by Kansas University basketball coach Bill Self."

Could it be because he thinks it'll be good for the real estate investments of his and his partners'?

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hipper_than_hip 2 years, 11 months ago

The money for a rec center will come from property taxes so let the voters decide.

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oldvet 2 years, 11 months ago

How about paying for it with a sales tax so that everyone who uses it gets to help pay for it...

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jafs 2 years, 11 months ago

User fees are the way to ensure those that use it pay for it.

Neither sales nor property taxes will do that.

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Kate Rogge 2 years, 11 months ago

User fees are an effective way to LIMIT those who use it.

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jafs 2 years, 11 months ago

Perhaps.

But, they're the only way to ensure that those who use them pay for them, and those that don't use them don't pay for them.

Sales taxes don't do that any more than property taxes would.

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Kate Rogge 2 years, 10 months ago

But when we all pay something from our city's monies to build the darn thing and then access to its facilities are restricted to those who can afford to pay use fees, those use fees restrict access. So I an pay to build it, but if I cannot afford to use it I am being robbed of what should be a shared public use of that which public monies buys.

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Windemere 2 years, 11 months ago

Would be an asset to have 5 gyms in West Lawrence. If you have kids on sports teams, you know that this town does not have enough gym space. Unlike library, could have a very positive impact on city revenues as the story says. Hope they take the approach of building any kind of "center" incrementally, i.e. start with a fieldhouse with gyms, then add other ammenities and the associated costs later. Good architectural and site planning is needed to build incrementally. Hope those in power do not try to push through a massive, high-ticket project all at once, which would not be prudent and would hurt chances of success.

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vuduchyld 2 years, 11 months ago

Wow...$15,000,000 might lead to direct spending of $420,000 in the city...and if the state portion of the sales tax is 6.3% and our sales tax is $8.85%, that leaves 3.55% locally. And 3.55% of $420,000 is $14,910.

So all we have to do is have 1000 basketball tournaments.

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flyin_squirrel 2 years, 11 months ago

Agree with Dever, 15 mil seems high. The Packer Plastics warehouse is 650,000 square feet (almost a quarter mile long), and is priced at 20 mil. I know this will have a few more finishes, but it is really only a warehouse with hardwood floors and heating/AC.

This will have a bigger economic impact in one month on Lawrence than the library ever will have.

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Getaroom 2 years, 11 months ago

Hurry hurry push push! It's about sports you know and the sooner the better gotta spend that money pronto or when it's gone it's gone. Now or never kinda deal? How about we think about keeping the local city services affordable before committing to yet another building that will require upkeep in the future and utilities that need to be paid. Maybe Self could put that 1 million in an account for safe keeping, grow a bit of interest until the city is in a better position to follow through? A nice offer of course it is, but how about extending that with a bit of forethought in mind.

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Carol Bowen 2 years, 11 months ago

If we attract teams for tournaments, it would stimulate the local economy just like KU's home games - intermittent and infrequent. That stimulus does not pay for long term equipment, maintenance and staffing of the facility. It would help retail a little. The city would be making a permanent budget increase with no plan to over the costs.

Afterthought: Doesn't KU have enough gyms for BB tournaments? We already paid for those.

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lunacydetector 2 years, 11 months ago

it would be awesome for recruiting so coach self can scout some prospects for the future, and it isn't at KU, so no conflict with the NCAA.

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Carol Bowen 2 years, 11 months ago

I hadn't heard that explanation. Is that the motivation for promoting the recreation center? I hope not. This is not a good reason for taxpayers to increase the city's budget.

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Don Whiteley 2 years, 11 months ago

We can't fund our schools and our teaching staff, but even with Self's $1 million donation, we can spend $14 million on a Rec Center? Given all the things we're being asked to give up lately, that seems pretty unreasonable. Is there a need to keep the West Lawrence kids off the streets...as in the video parlors and Starbucks are getting overcrowded? While we're making such a ridiculous expenditure, let's tack on another $2 million for state-of-the-art video games for the new rec center.

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Windemere 2 years, 11 months ago

Kids from East of town would play there in Parks and Rec leagues, just like kids from West Lawr have had to drive that distance to play in the East Lawr. Rec Ctr. (A long, gas-guzzling drive and a terrible parking situation). The city shares these facilities.

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Richard Heckler 2 years, 11 months ago

Don't bypass the folks responsible for the bills aka the taxpayers. You made us approve spending for the library and the T. Put it to a vote!

"Schnaer said Self was particularly excited about the chance to bring some major youth basketball tournaments to Lawrence.

“His ability to help us bring some high-profile tournaments to town is pretty unique,” Schnaer said. "

Where is the hard evidence? Thus far all we have is rhetoric.

Do the movers and shakers put aside the thought that the KCMO/JOCO metro also have the ability to attract such activity? Topeka also?

Isn't it the responsibility of the city to repair all streets in the city like on the eastside? Nothing in this town can be accomplished without east side tax dollars!

Put it to a vote!

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cletus26 2 years, 11 months ago

well i be.. school programs going away-crime is rising-all the after school programs and clubs are costing to much for parents to afford, but let's build anoter rec center!! Not another Boys and Girls club and staff it appropriately for the children can get help w/ school matters; but let's build a rec center. Never worrying about the decline and lack of education and professors, but worrying about sports; well i be... what is going on people?

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independent_rebel 2 years, 11 months ago

Please. Apples and oranges. The money spent on the rec center wouldn't instead be used for professors, teachers, after-school programs.

Argue with facts folks.

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Liberty275 2 years, 10 months ago

No. Not unless it pays for itself within the decade.

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Robert Rauktis 2 years, 10 months ago

"Jana Dobbs, chairwoman of the city’s Parks and Recreation Advisory Board, said her research had found that the economic impact of youth basketball and volleyball tournaments could be significant. She cited a study done by Texas A&M professors that found a single 120-team youth basketball tournament in College Station, Texas, produced $420,000 in direct spending in the city. Dobbs said a new Lawrence facility could attract several large tournaments a year. "

A stretch.

And can't people jog OUTSIDE for the ten months of the year when that's impossible? It's called "layered clothing". Fashionable at that. In bad weather, no one goes out anyhow. And there's something called "the morning" in the summer heat. It's actually pleasent time ...might break some insular worlds and cheaper at that!

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Carol Bowen 2 years, 10 months ago

They may spend in Lawrence, but the revenue does not pay for or maintain the rec center. The rec center would forever be supported by our tax dollars. If it were lucrative, someone from the private sector would be interested.

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