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Archive for Friday, August 3, 2012

Challenges come with rec center

An aerial view looking north shows the intersection of Sixth Street and Kansas Highway 10, Tuesday, July 24, 2012. Some would like to see a multi-million dollar recreational facility to be constructed at the northwest corner of this intersection. Nick Krug/Journal-World Photo

An aerial view looking north shows the intersection of Sixth Street and Kansas Highway 10, Tuesday, July 24, 2012. Some would like to see a multi-million dollar recreational facility to be constructed at the northwest corner of this intersection. Nick Krug/Journal-World Photo

August 3, 2012

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As they say in the sports world: Game on.

If Lawrence indeed does build a nearly 180,000-square-foot fieldhouse facility to attract big-dollar youth sports, be assured it will need to lace up its shoelaces tight to take on the competition.

Prosperous Johnson County already has two large, multicourt facilities, and the developers of the Legends shopping area in Wyandotte County have proposed building a youth fieldhouse in Wichita as part of a 400-acre retail complex.

In addition to the competition, Lawrence also may have to face a harsh reality in the business: On-court success doesn’t always equate to direct financial success.

Fieldhouse USA in Frisco, Texas — believed to be the largest youth fieldhouse in the country — has attracted large crowds, but by late 2011 its private operator had fallen nearly $1 million behind in lease payments to the city of Frisco because of unexpected operational costs.

The basketball court of the New Century Fieldhouse operated by Johnson County Parks and Recreation in Gardner. It is an 88,000-square foot facility that had a price tag of $8.2 million plus interest costs.

The basketball court of the New Century Fieldhouse operated by Johnson County Parks and Recreation in Gardner. It is an 88,000-square foot facility that had a price tag of $8.2 million plus interest costs.

Exterior of the New Century Fieldhouse operated by Johnson County Parks and Recreation in Gardner. It is an 88,000-square foot facility that had a price tag of $8.2 million plus interest costs.

Exterior of the New Century Fieldhouse operated by Johnson County Parks and Recreation in Gardner. It is an 88,000-square foot facility that had a price tag of $8.2 million plus interest costs.

In other words, if the city is looking for a risk-free venture, this isn’t it, said Roger Morningstar, who used to own a private Lawrence-based sports fieldhouse — Sport-2-Sport — and is the organizer of one of the largest youth basketball tournaments in the Midwest.

But Morningstar will be rooting for the Lawrence project to succeed.

“I just want everybody to understand that it will take a tremendous amount of effort to make it work in Lawrence,” said Morningstar. “But if they somehow can figure out how to make it work, what a wonderful benefit it will be for the community.”

The competition

Lawrence city commissioners haven’t yet made any decisions about whether this is a game they’re ready to enter. But they certainly are doing all the pre-game calisthenics.

City commissioners are deep into negotiations with two private developers and Kansas University about building a youth fieldhouse/recreation center on the northwest corner of Sixth Street and the South Lawrence Trafficway.

As proposed, the project could be as large as 180,000 square feet and include eight basketball courts that could double as 16 volleyball courts. It also would include a walking track, fitness room, indoor turf field and other amenities.

The city also is working with Lawrence developer Thomas Fritzel and Kansas University to allow KU to build a track and field stadium and competition soccer field on the city’s 50-acre site.

Now, city commissioners must decide whether they want to throw the public’s checkbook onto the playing field. The latest proposal calls for the city to pay $24 million over a 20-year period to Fritzel as part of a lease-purchase agreement, plus the city would pay to operate the fieldhouse facility.

Officials then hope the city would become a major destination for youth sporting events that would attract thousands of athletes and their parents to the city’s hotels, restaurants and shops.

It is an idea other cities have too.

Two Johnson County facilities already are up and running. They are:

l The New Century Fieldhouse operated by Johnson County Parks and Recreation in Gardner. The 88,000-square-foot facility, open since June 2011, has four high school-sized basketball courts, eight volleyball courts, a full-size indoor soccer field, and other fan amenities. The facility had a price tag of $8.2 million plus interest costs. (Lawrence’s $24 million estimate includes financing costs, and would be about $16 million without interest costs.)

l The Fieldhouse of Kansas City is an 81,000-square-foot fieldhouse at 135th and Quivira operated by a private group. It has eight full-size basketball courts that also can be converted into 16 volleyball courts.

l A third facility in the region is in the planning stages. Goodsports Fieldhouse is proposed to be a $6 million, 53,000-square-foot fieldhouse with six gyms that would target youth basketball tournaments and other youth sporting events. The project would be surrounded by 400 acres of new commercial development near Wichita’s new Cabela’s sporting goods store.

Jill Geller, superintendent of recreation for Johnson County Parks and Recreation, said Lawrence officials may want to keep their eyes on other area communities as well.

“I hear rumblings of other projects in the Kansas City area,” Geller said. “If everything that is dreamed of being built gets built, we absolutely could be oversaturated.”

Local challenges

The Lawrence proposal has an interesting distinction to it: It would be the largest project, in terms of square feet, of the regional centers. But it would be in the smallest community from a population standpoint.

Morningstar, who ran Sport-2-Sport from 1996 to 2006, said the population issue is one to keep in mind. Having a large population base allows a center to more easily host its own leagues, which reduces the pressure for a center to make all of it revenues from tournaments.

“Having a considerable amount of population is one of the things you look for to make a center like this work,” said Morningstar. “Lawrence doesn’t have that, but that doesn’t mean it won’t work. If you don’t have the population, you have to have a tremendous amount of cooperation among the organizations that may use it.

“I think that is what makes Lawrence’s proposal unique. The city and the university could really work together to make this something more than a place with just a few gyms.”

Morningstar, though, said the city will have other issues it must solve if it hopes to attract very large youth tournaments. He said the city is probably still two to three new hotels away from having enough rooms to accommodate teams and visitors with a large tournament, such as his 200-team, Johnson County-based Jayhawk Invitational that brings more than 4,000 people to a community.

Jerald Good, who is the president of Goodsports Fieldhouse Inc., is looking at building 25 youth fieldhouses across the country — including the one in Wichita. He said figuring out the right size for a facility is a key equation in these projects.

“We have found there is a real balance in terms of what you can spend on one of these facilities versus what it will produce in terms of economic benefit for a community,” Good said. “That plan in Lawrence is a pretty large undertaking for a population of 100,000 people, but I would assume the university is going to be a big supporter of the efforts.”

The numbers

Indeed, Lawrence leaders believe Kansas University will give the project a significant advantage over other competitors. The university will not contribute any money toward construction or operation of the fieldhouse, but city leaders believe the university’s track and field stadium and soccer field will be available to host youth sports tournaments.

Kansas University men’s basketball coach Bill Self and his non-profit Assists Foundation also have expressed interest in the fieldhouse. City leaders are hopeful Self’s involvement will help attract the attention of youth tournament organizers from across the country.

“We think the fact Lawrence and college basketball are thought of together by so many people across the country will be a marketing advantage,” said City Manager David Corliss.

But city officials said they still have some research to do on the project. Corliss has estimated the city will have to subsidize the operation of the facility by about $300,000 a year, but he said that number is subject to change as he gets more information about operational costs.

Operation costs ended up being an issue in Frisco, Texas, which operates a $15.2 million, 142,000-square-foot center with 12 gyms. Between the time the center opened in March 2009 and late 2011, the fieldhouse — which is in the Dallas metro area — fell about $1 million behind in lease payments and had to seek new terms from the city.

Lawrence officials also are working to determine how many tournaments a Lawrence fieldhouse could attract. In the Kansas City area the demand for youth tournaments is strong. The Fieldhouse of Kansas City, which has been open since April, just recently hosted a 165-team tournament. It expects to host basketball tournaments about 24 weekends out of the year. A partnership it has with a local volleyball academy is expected to fill the courts the remaining weekends.

The New Century Fieldhouse expects to host 29 tournaments during 2012, Geller said. For the first six months of the year, the facility has hosted about 132,000 participants and spectators. She also said the financial performance of the facility has been good. Revenues from the fieldhouse are on track to total about $980,000, while operating expenses are budgeted to total about $950,000.

The New Century facility — which has four full-time staff members — is about half the size of the proposed Lawrence fieldhouse. But it isn’t yet clear whether Lawrence’s operating expenses would be roughly double those of the Johnson County facility.

Corliss said he didn’t want to speculate yet on how much it may cost to run the Lawrence fieldhouse. The city is expecting a report next week that details some of the potential economic impacts of a new fieldhouse that Corliss expects to help him better understand potential operating expenses.

City commissioners are scheduled to discuss that report and other fieldhouse issues at their Aug. 7 commission meeting.

— City reporter Chad Lawhorn can be reached at 832-6362. Follow him at Twitter.com/clawhorn_ljw

Comments

Jayhawk1958 1 year, 8 months ago

This is all about a win-win for Fritzel and KU. We are getting played like pawns...

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irvan moore 1 year, 8 months ago

i think the fix is in, not a lot for the commission to discuss, just get out the trusty old rubber stamp and full speed ahead, seems like everything is moving pretty darn fast to get this project going

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Phillbert 1 year, 8 months ago

Very helpful to have these comparisons to what other cities have done and are doing. This project is making less and less sense all the time.

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beeline 1 year, 8 months ago

This is a great project for the community and that is what it should be. Not an investment. If the City wants to break even, spend zero dollars. Leave the investing to private businesses. We should have a facility that serves Lawrence residents, not filled every weekend with out of town guests, unusable by the people paying for the project. I have heard KU doesn't want us using their soccer field and track; again, unusable by the community. This is starting to sound like a disaster, not a community rec center.

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mikekt 1 year, 8 months ago

If you have ever been to 119Th & Metcalf Ave in O.P., you'll know what a busy area with tons of traffic & shopping is all about.

Who would have thought that two multiplex theaters would have gone out of buisiness in two years there ;....but they did, due to the simple over saturation of So.Jo.Co. with movie screens !

Realistically, where are the hotel rooms & the many local other attraction of KC, the factual, actual, "Paris Of The Planes" ( even if it's in bad need of repairs ! ).

Sprint center, The Nelson Atkins ( a national top tier art gallery with the largest collection of Chinese Art outside of China, etc.. ), the Plaza, The Truman Presidential Home & Library in Independence, Mo., The Nat. WW1 Memorial & Museum, The restored historic Union Station with Smithsonian Road Show Exhibits & Science City, The Cross Roads Arts District, The World Class Kaufman Preforming Art Center,.......Hello,..... this list could go on & on with tourist draws !...How about Royals, Chiefs, Steam Boat Arabia Museum, The KC Museum, the Toy Museum, the Lego land & the Aquarium at Crown Center, the Soccer team, the NASCAR track, the Casinos, the 18th & Vine Jazz district, The Negro League Baseball Museum......are you tired yet? I am, of typing.

This needs to be heavily rethought if the goal is to make Lawrence the youth sports center of the universe & take on all comers.

There is foundation money in KC, that could eat 24 Million $ for lunch..... & never even burp !

Restoring KCs Union Station & building onto it Science City, expanding The Nelson Atkins & The building of the Kaufman Center probably totals more than ONE BILLION $.

We also are not at the junction of I-70, I-35, I-29, 71 & 69 highways, nor do we have a huge airport nor a huge amount of extra hotel space for major events ( the iron man events sell them all out - as in, no space at the inn,.... for sam "The Christian" (?) brownback ) .

We sound like the drunks staggering out of the Mass. St.Bars at closing time ( we are in a failing economy ) just ready to take on the biggest cop ( as in, a hard financial reality check ! ) in the world, that we can find to get beat with a night stick ( in our case, financially drained of our money by bankers & deal makers ) or pepper sprayed by for our troubles of acting like drunks !

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greenworld 1 year, 8 months ago

Maybe Dave freeman or Rodney Jones can get in on this......

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Jayhawk1958 1 year, 8 months ago

My other question is why did Sport To Sport fail?

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Jayhawk1958 1 year, 8 months ago

Why would a tournament want to host in Lawrence when Johnson County and K.C. are so close and offer more tourist attractions and lodging numbers and choices? I mean downtown Lawrence vs. The Plaza. Come on.

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Jayhawk1958 1 year, 8 months ago

I can see the city and more importantly us taxpayers holding the bag if this thing fails.

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Jayhawk1958 1 year, 8 months ago

$8 Million dollars of interest. Now that's a good idea! That kind of money can provide for a lot of jobs.

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Jayhawk1958 1 year, 8 months ago

If even 1 cent of my property taxes goes to Fritzel, I'm selling my house.

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Flap Doodle 1 year, 8 months ago

A habit obscene and unsavory Holds David Cay Johnson in slavery With lecherous howls He devours young owls That he keeps in an underground avairy

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irvan moore 1 year, 8 months ago

why can't they build the stuff on all that nice land endowment owns, much better location, that would be a real partnership and benefit the community but maybe not benefit the developers

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Richard Heckler 1 year, 8 months ago

Consultants are not necessarily the most reliable source for good judgement. Depending so heavily on Jayhawk basketball to make this work is risky business.

What is missing?

Where is the market analysis that indicates the capacity of this complex to attract sufficient external new tournaments to make the taxpayers' investment worthwhile?

The City is acting as if this is the only development possibliity. It is not.

The City could build a sports complex adjacent to Free State High School with many fewer problems.

Where is the comparative costs-benefit analysis showing that the City is better off with the large sports complex at the SLT rather than a sports complex at the Free State High School?

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Richard Heckler 1 year, 8 months ago

Over 20 years TAXPAYERS will be paying out $24 million in lease payments plus operational expenses of which no one knows how much.

Then there is infrastructure expenses ranging in estimates from 6-7 million to 14 million

Money from the 1994 sales tax is being allocated for this project BUT is the way taxpayers want to spend the tax dollars. This money IS NOT dedicated to the park department which is to say how many ways could Lawrence be improved?

If there is $40 million laying around why not improve educational opportunities in Lawrence with a nice Vo-Tech campus that could pay for itself by way of fees and tuition. Plus salaries will be more of what Lawrence needs. Students have been good for Lawrence and jobs are not available for college grads.

TAXPAYERS cannot forget we are on the hook for more than $20 million for athletics projects that which are a long way from being paid for by way of USD 497.

Money from the 1994 sales tax is being allocated for this project BUT is the way taxpayers want to spend the tax dollars.

Put this use of tax dollars to a vote for the largest group of stakeholders on this project..... we the taxpayers.

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Richard Heckler 1 year, 8 months ago

DAVID CAY JOHNSTON: Sure. George Steinbrenner is getting over $600 million for the new Yankee Stadium in New York. The New York Mets are getting over $600 million. In fact, the City of New York gave them money to lobby against the taxpayers to get more money. Rudy Giuliani gave $50 million to the two teams for that purpose.

The new owners of the Washington Nationals baseball team in Washington, D.C., paid $450 million for the team. But, in fact, they got the team for free, because the subsidy they’re getting for the new stadium is worth $611 million. We actually paid these people to buy the team.

Now, in this country right now, we are spending $2 billion a year subsidizing the big four sports: baseball, basketball, football and hockey. It accounts for all of the profits of that industry and more.

Now, there may be individual teams that make money, but the industry as a whole is not profitable.

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Keith 1 year, 8 months ago

"The university will not contribute any money toward construction or operation of the fieldhouse, but city leaders believe the university’s track and field stadium and soccer field will be available to host youth sports tournaments. "

Belief is a good thing, but not in business. If you want to be able to use the track and field stadium, you'd better get it in writing.

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Carol Bowen 1 year, 8 months ago

This project is way too large for Lawrence. We do not have the draw to support it.

  • KU does not have to purchase property or use what it has. Free land plus no property tax revenue. What's with that?

  • Three more hotels and more restaurants needed for sporadic events. What will these businesses use for income between events? Lawrence needs a more steady business climate instead of feast or famine.

  • Stiff competition from communities more likely to succeed. The biggest facility does not guarantee a competitive edge. It could become the biggest failure.

  • The city would kick in $300,000 a year. I'll bet that's an underestimate.

Lawrence has a tendency to grab at straws instead of trying to understand how to build on what we already have and what we are. And in the process, the movers and shakers would give the shirts off our backs - our homes, our taxes, our sense of community. What are our strengths? We are already a bedroom community between two larger metropolitan areas (Well almost two. Topeka is small, but still larger than Lawrence.). We will soon loose our identity and look like every other suburb.

The Chamber idea that caught my attention was a crossroads for the shipping industry. It's logical, and we have open space outside the city. Lawrence is easier to navigate than KC. We could make an oasis with workout rooms and health clinics for drivers. Hotels that would be consistently busy, and lots of related businesses.

If we are interested in showcasing KU, why not invest more in museums? We do not have a science and technology museum and the arts could use more support. Create easy access. Provide transportation for incoming adult, children, family, and group field trips. (Wouldn't that be a unique venture for our Parks and Rec.). How about weekend short courses?

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softsun 1 year, 8 months ago

Saw that - you are right - Does the City Manager see himself as a Developer? This NO Bid gift to a preselected developer is of concern to many and will be investigated. Even prosecutors realize people are just not this blind. We do not owe him, yet he bulls and pouts along putting partners at risk. Are the condos on the hill on the tax role? Craig might want to check to find some are - but Some are NOT - Who is looking the other way? Most are also partners in Fort Development, LLC, according to Corporate Records at the Secretary of State the debt leveraged and linked to trusts to interlocking holdings could "break the bank" and is a sight to behold. After 3 year delay they did pay some of their back taxes in Junction City. Meanwhile, Junction City financial footing is in the dumpster with the former Mayor and one developer in jail, leaving taxpayers shackled with all the bonded debt to pay. All they have to say for themselves is "its all legal." "The elected officials have the power to do this." " We can not help it if they let us do it to them." "Someone is going too." WOW - The West side will develop but to open this bottomless pit to the taxpayers check book check book when Lawrence needs Police and other basic services is questionable? Cadre Lawrence is a great cheer leading squad but few have any real chips in the game. Tuesday night, maybe Cadre Lawrence will ask the tough questions and not be the "invisible hand" of the a defunct Chamber still coupled to the Kansas Chamber during primary election season. Perhaps there is a trade for the TIF for downtown. Place bets__

Already, less than half of the people in Lawrence can afford to pay their property taxes. Already over extended. Cadre Lawrence should not become "Get it while we can - they are looking the other way - WHOA

The gift of the land is no small item and to be run over rough shod in the name of KU athletics bending over for their arrogant "golden child" is perhaps more than a seasoned warrior can stomach. I think they are going to get called out in the street - keep movin

Later

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Carol Bowen 1 year, 8 months ago

Here we go again. The city is involved with a speculative project. Has the city ever made a good investment with a private partnership?

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softsun 1 year, 8 months ago

Corliss said he didn’t want to speculate yet on how much it may cost to run the Lawrence fieldhouse. The city is expecting a report next week that details some of the potential economic impacts of a new fieldhouse that Corliss expects to help him better understand potential operating expenses.

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softsun 1 year, 8 months ago

Saw that - BKD report page 24 Olivia Farms is being developed by Fort Development, LLC "based out of Lawrence, Ks. " They are losing tons of money on the project and also the LOCAL Hotel where they are all investors and condo owners. They are pretty mad at the developer of Lawrence for huge losses who now seems to have few choices but to try the play again here in Lawrence<:) BTW Construction costs of the rec center are $75.00 per sq foot for building and about 15 for equipment. Everyone says all should be well under $100 per sq ft. They are getting the figures blessed by a City person CW all work is actually being done by PW justifying charging $125.00 sq ft. They are going to get caught sure as the world. Thanks Later-

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softsun 1 year, 8 months ago

Junction City spending spree is over with names of the streets in the Olivia Farms project of Fort Development where many special taxes have gone begging for years has helped put Junction City in a financial bind and the City had to take over sewer lift stations. Individual lot descriptions are available under Geary County gis.com. Many of the same cast of characters are lining up again for the Recreation Center NO BID project WHOA

The U. S. District Court of Kansas Criminal Docket for Case #: 5:09-cr-40052-RDR-1 is public record of former Mayor Wunder and a former Lawrence businessman. Your headline is correct - Challenges come with Recreation Center.
Junction City, meanwhile, nearly fell into bankruptcy. On Feb. 28, 2010, the city's accounts held $98,000 in cash to support a $37 million budget.

Junction City Mayor Pat Landes, elected to the city commission in 2011, said the city's financial position had improved following adoption two years ago of a 1-cent, 10-year sales tax hike dedicated to paying bond debt.

Last year, the city commission reduced staffing, trimmed department spending and approved a property tax increase to help balance the budget.

"Junction City residents have sacrificed a great deal," Landes said. "The spending spree is over and we now have an excellent staff in place to carry us forward."

HELLO!!!

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softsun 1 year, 8 months ago

Some of the people involved in the Lawrence Recreation Center are sharp enough to not let the same people who were involved in the collapse of the City of Junction City budget to less than $98,000 last year get the City of Lawrence into a similar position through NO BID projects which has resulted in many projects of "Fort Development" go for years without paying their taxes and led to the penitentiary for the Mayor and a Lawrence businessman. Secretary of State annual reports show ownership of Fort Development and its local agent. https://www.kansas.gov/bess/flow/main;jsessionid=B369EB4AB8772638D6F398C04C15ADFF.aptcs03-inst0?execution=e1s1 Docket report link. Here is the story of Junction City begging the State of Kansas for help http://www2.ljworld.com/news/2012/mar... If you are interesded in the full report from BKD on the mistakes Junction City made with their no bid projects, here is the link http://www2.ljworld.com/news/2012/mar....

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