Archive for Friday, August 31, 2012

Air-conditioned Robinson is rec answer

August 31, 2012


For the price of an air conditioner, Lawrence can accomplish about everything it proposes to do with the Schwada-Fritzel “sports village.”

At the initial sports village promotional meeting, Bob Sanner of the Lawrence Sports Corporation said that his main basketball tournament problem was the summer season because KU’s Robinson Center wasn’t air-conditioned.

With that inexpensive fix, Lawrence can offer the tournament world eight basketball courts (two at Robinson, six at Ambler) within the shadow of fabled Allen Fieldhouse. Need more courts? Use the recreation centers’ six courts and another dozen or so at Haskell and the public schools.

If you can’t sell tournaments with an offering like that, then you’re in the wrong business.

Whether you buy an air conditioner or build a sports village, NCAA Bylaw may be a problem. KU can’t host tournaments where prospective boy-basketball-recruits participate “on its campus or at an off-campus facility regularly used by the institution for practice and/or competition by any of the institution’s sport programs.”

It’s a transparent “fig leaf” to argue that KU isn’t “hosting” tournaments ostensibly sponsored by others, whether on campus or at the sports village, given the fact that:

• The June 19 letter from a city-hired consulting firm says, “It is our understanding that the City of Lawrence is contemplating a public-private partnership to develop a youth sports complex with potential partners including the City, the University of Kansas, the Assists Foundation (Bill and Cindy Self) and others.”

• The city manager says, “We think the fact Lawrence and college basketball are thought of together by so many people across the country will be a marketing advantage.” (Journal-World, Aug. 3)

• Roger Morningstar, former KU star and tournament expert, says, for the sports village to succeed “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.” (Journal-World, Aug. 3)

Since the Schwada-Fritzel scheme isn’t necessary, the real quandary is what to do with all of that extra sales tax/infrastructure money. Here are some ideas (in no particular order of preference):

l Repeal all or most of the 1994 voter-approved sales tax and reduce local sales taxes. (Lawrence presently has the highest sales tax rate of any of the “old” Big 12 cities and one of the highest in Kansas. Purchases in the sports village and adjoining commercial space would have a sales tax rate of nearly 11 percent.)

• Use the sales tax money to eliminate the need for a city property tax mill levy increase.

• Use it to hire additional police officers. The 2010 Benchmark City Survey, which included Lawrence and 27 other cities, ranked Lawrence second highest in rates of crime. (Is it more important to be No. 1 in crime or in basketball courts?)

• Use it to build an actual recreation center with two full-size courts and a walking track on the 37 acres the city already owns next to Free State High School. (It is more centrally located. It doesn’t require $6 million-plus in infrastructure improvements. It is far more consistent with the promised use of the 1994 sales tax, i.e. for parks and recreation projects and not economic development. It allows the Schwada property way out west to develop as non-subsidized market forces dictate.)

• Build a recreation center for northwest Lawrence, but also add a second full-size court to the Holcom and East Lawrence centers. (This provides equitable and conveniently located space throughout Lawrence. KU can locate its track south of the fieldhouse as previously proposed. Keeps it close to the Horejsi Center, which allows it to make use of adequate, existing parking for the KU Relays. Maybe even throw in flush toilets for the baseball stadium.)

Instead of just suiting up for whichever team currently fields the most energetic cheerleaders, the city ought to think things through — especially now when scarce tax dollars are needed for a $40 million law enforcement center, $50 million sewage plant, and a school bond issue.

In addition, the Brownback tax cuts are projected to significantly increase local sales and property taxes.

As near as I can tell, there really has been no objective effort to compare the sports village to far less-expensive options, or to rank it in importance against other important projects. Instead, the city has paid for a report confirming what it has apparently already decided to do.


just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 6 months ago

Very good ideas-- but it doesn't address the main reason behind the mega-complex out west-- to get those areas open to major development and get taxpayers to subsidize it.

Terry Sexton 5 years, 6 months ago

Mr. Harper presents some very thoughtful proposals. I have supported the big rec center idea, but one should keep an open mind. These ideas deserve a lot more consideration.

Take_a_letter_Maria 5 years, 6 months ago

Four letters, one problem. NCAA.

Since Robinson and Ambler are on the KU campus, they cannot hold games for any high school aged tournaments at those facilities thanks to the NCAA.

bsanner 5 years, 6 months ago

Because my name was mentioned in Jerry Harper’s blog, I’m compelled to clarify a few points. There is no question that Allen Fieldhouse serves as the perfect backdrop to Robinson and the Ambler Student Recreation Center. But Robinson’s lack of air conditioning is only one of several important concerns about these sites. Both Robinson and Ambler are recreational buildings that lack the seating capacity and other essential amenities for major tournaments. But as long as the NCAA rule exists these concerns are moot, because many tournaments could not be played at these campus sites. Mr. Harper is correct that the NCAA prohibits any member institution from allowing basketball tournaments on campus if those tournaments involve middle- to high-school age young men.
It is important to note that the proposed sports village includes two distinct entities. The City of Lawrence will manage the recreation center. Kansas Athletics will manage the track/soccer complex. Both of these venues would sit on land owned by the City of Lawrence. Kansas Athletics will have no involvement with the indoor facility. So the suggestion that Kansas Athletics would be violating NCAA rules if the city hosted tournaments at this site simply is not true.
I think it’s tremendous that Lawrence community members are engaged in discussions of this project. I hope this information will at least clarify some key issues. Bob Sanner

Patricia Davis 5 years, 6 months ago

This is the most pragmatic suggestion to a problem we did not know existed. The hurry up build it mode is being done because after the Brownback tax plan hits the fan, people are going to be furious about the rate of their property taxes.

What our city commission is doing for the few and making the rest of us pay for it is immoral. Hope lawsuits erupt over this.

New2KU 5 years, 6 months ago

Once again. Someone hasn't done their research before they give their opinion. As mentioned in some blogs above, NCAA rules will prohibit the ability for many age groups to participate in tournaments due to being on KU campus and part of the university. I wish there was more fact based reporting in the media. I also wish that all politicians were honest and had our countries best interest in mind.

Richard Heckler 5 years, 6 months ago

This project is too risky for local taxpayers. Too many assumptions, too much speculation and no one is sure when changes to this project will stop. Obviously not well thought out.

In this shaky economy no thank you. There is no light at the end of the tunnel…. no way jose’.

Do the pros outweigh the cons of the new proposed sports complex? NO - $30 million or more tax dollars from the taxpayers kind of eliminates the gift concept.

Therefore I think taxpayers should come out strong for voter approval.

Perhaps it is time in to revisit this 1994 sales tax and ask voters how elected officials should be spending this money. Put this question on the upcoming ballot. Offer up practical choices.

This 1994 sales tax is not necessarily dedicated to the park department in spite of the fact a large chunk has been funding park department projects.

Perhaps taxpayers would be interested in repealing all or part this sales tax as a means to reducing taxes for a change?

Think of it this way. 10% of this sales tax could be dedicated to rehab the library and provide operations expenses thereafter. Thereby eliminating the new library tax increase. Another opportunity to reduce taxes. Let the voter decide.

Thinking another way 10% of this sales tax could build this community a nice Vo-Tech center. This would be a huge plus for the community that would definitely pay back. Education always pays back!

Our taxpayer owned elementary schools are in dire need of rehabilitation. This sales tax could be directed at reducing city level property taxes thereby offsetting any tax increase USD 497 may need to rehab OUR elementary schools that somehow have been neglected.

Certainly last but not least let’s build an actual NW neighborhood rec center similar to existing rec centers with two full size courts and a walking track on the 37 acres the city now owns next to Free State High School. It does not need $6 million or more $$$$ in new infrastructure.

In addition to the NW neighborhood rec center add a second full sized court at Holcomb and East Lawrence rec centers to help satisfy the alleged need for more courts.

This concept provides adequate,equitable and conveniently located space throughout the Lawrence tax dollar area. This is certainly more consistent with the promised use of the1994 voter approved sales tax money.

Build the KU track behind Allen Fieldhouse as Lew Perkins put forward. Keep KU on KU grounds.

Too many keep thinking that Jayhawk basketball will drag people to Lawrence for any silly reason. We have too many failed retail ventures that have proved Jayhawk basketball will not draw millions of shoppers away from home.


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