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Archive for Saturday, December 22, 2012

Letter: Commissioners give rec center update

December 22, 2012

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We wish to provide the citizens of Lawrence with more details about the Rock Chalk Park and Recreation Center project. On behalf of the city, we have attended nearly all meetings regarding this project as it has progressed over the past year.

The City of Lawrence has an outstanding opportunity to partner with the University of Kansas to accomplish the goals of Kansas Athletics and our community’s need for increased indoor gym space and other recreational amenities. Together we wish to position Lawrence as an attractive location for regional sports tournaments and other special events. KU must address sports venue upgrades that will allow them to maintain their position as a leading institution in the Big 12. Lawrence residents directly benefit from the addition of indoor recreation space, the need for which has been well documented, and the opportunity to host tournaments in our city. We also capture sales tax revenue from retail sales to out-of-town visitors and recapturing revenues currently lost to other communities.

Our synergy with the KU is critical on many fronts. The future growth and prosperity of Lawrence is directly tied to the success of KU, as our largest employer and as an academic and athletic institution. The city’s relationship with KU is solid, as evidenced by our partnerships in transit, bioscience and technology incubation and job creation, student/community relationships and downtown athletic events. The entire Rock Chalk Park property is a 155-acre parcel generally located north of Sixth Street and east of K-10 off of George Williams Way. Under the current proposal, KU Endowment will build the city’s recreation center building, lighted tennis courts, walking/jogging trails, infrastructure, and parking lots for a maximum price of $25 million, or the actual price, if less. KU Endowment will bid the city’s project, thereby establishing a market value for the price of these facilities, the total estimated value of which is $33.5 million. At the conclusion of the construction and upon verification of the completed project to city specifications through city inspection, the city will receive title to its facilities and land and will control facility operations.

There are people who question the structure of the partnership. It is our view that the philanthropic nature of the gifts of land and amenities to the city are gratefully acknowledged and we are working to leverage these gifts to the fullest extent possible. As with any extraordinary endeavor, new and unique approaches must be considered to achieve all goals. The Bliss Foundation, led by Lawrence residents Thomas and Dru Fritzel, has stepped forward to help KU meet its needs and time frame. Without the participation of all of the parties, this unique project would not be possible. For example, if the city doesn’t place its recreation center at Rock Chalk Park, the city is still likely to be asked to assist KU with infrastructure costs to the site.

We acknowledge that the future of the local, regional and national economy is in question, but believe that our past fiscal restraint has allowed us to consider taking action on an extraordinary community asset. For the last six years, the City Commission has held staffing levels steady, focusing additional revenues on infrastructure and needed police officers, while maintaining high marks from credit rating agencies and healthy reserves. Because of the foresight of the community in voting in favor of a sales tax primarily set aside for recreational amenities, we are in a unique position to leverage the future growth of our existing tax dollars on an exceptional project. Construction and financing costs are at their lowest rate in decades. Today, we are well poised to take on a large project that will help our community for years into the future.

By maximizing shared infrastructure, Rock Chalk Park project is a classic example of a partnership where the sum of the investments far outweighs the individual parts. We wish to thank KU Athletics, KU Endowment, the Assists Foundation, the Bliss Foundation, city staff and the City Commission. All have done their best to represent their respective institutions in an extraordinary manner in order to accomplish Rock Chalk Park.

As elected officials, our primary responsibility is to represent our constituents. As the space in this forum is limited, we invite citizens to go to the city’s website at www.lawrenceks.org for more information and welcome questions and comments as we move forward in consideration of this unique project.

Comments

Richard Heckler 1 year, 11 months ago

Put the matter before the taxpayers. Let us vote on this project of questionable ethics?

Where are the numbers that the taxpaying stakeholders can rely on as accurate?

A vote should be mandated on projects of this magnitude. Commissioners should realize that taxpayers do not necessarily trust the judgement of politicians. This is not new.

We taxpayers deserve a chance to vote on this project. Why are commissioners protecting this special interest project?

Richard Heckler 1 year, 11 months ago

The largest number of stakeholders on this matter aka taxpayers deserve an opportunity to speak out on this matter.

Let the largest number of stakeholders vote on this matter. If it is a worthwhile project in the eyes of the taxpayer it will sail through as the library project did. As the T did.

Let fiscally responsible democracy work for the Stakeholders! Let we stakeholders vote on this matter. It's our money.

Catalano 1 year, 11 months ago

(Revised BOHICA): BenDever, here it comes again.

Phil Minkin 1 year, 11 months ago

Let KU do what ever they want there, but the city should build a good rec center on land they already own near Free State where there is already existing infrastructure. Let KU deal with the parking and water and sewer problems on that site by making it a benefit district to pay for it.

youngjayhawk 1 year, 11 months ago

I agree with foodboy; most community members just want another facility (on the west side) comparable to the other rec centers in town. Why do you commissioners (exc Mike Amyx) insist on cramming this project down our throats? Let KU have it; the Lawrence community wants nothing to do with it. We end up being the suckers, AGAIN!

Keith 1 year, 11 months ago

That last sentence says it all. We welcome your comments as we move forward. Say what you want, it's a done deal.

Gary Rexroad 1 year, 11 months ago

The Rock Chalk Sports Park will be a benefit and asset to Lawrence for decades to come. We can no longer afford to be held hostage by paranoia or a lack of vision. Anyone really watching the details of this VERY complex deal can easily see all of the Commissioners, KU and the Developers have acted with integrity and transparency. Build it!!!

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 1 year, 11 months ago

"can easily see all of the Commissioners, KU and the Developers have acted with integrity and transparency."

What? There has been little to none of either.

Phil Minkin 1 year, 11 months ago

Does anyone see a parallel to the proposed downtown mall that had the overwhelming support or the commission, the chamber and the development community. Dolph called the dissenters "lardbuts". It was a done deal until Lawrencians rose up, signed petitions and got a public vote and our downtown was saved from "The Monster on Mass."

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