Archive for Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Town Talk: Children’s fun center coming to downtown; changes at Alvamar Country Club; architects release renderings of new design for 9th and N.H hotel

February 7, 2012, 9:18 a.m. Updated February 7, 2012, 3:16 p.m.


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News and notes from around town:

• Soon enough, there’s going to be a whole lot of jumping going on in Downtown Lawrence. A couple of area entrepreneurs have confirmed they’re opening a children’s fun/learning center at 1000 Mass., in the former Sports Dome location.

The business is slated to be called Laugh Out Loud Family Zone, and it will include several pieces of equipment designed to entertain kids, and give mom and dad a break from watching the young ones destroy their house with child-like energy.

Oskaloosa residents Christie and Charles Peterson are opening the business. The couple for the last decade operated Challenge Options, a company that specialized in building rock climbing walls and zip lines at locations across the country.

But as the two became parents they discovered a job that allowed them to be with their children more. And now, will they ever be around children. Plans call for the new business to have several kid-pleasing features, including:

  • A jump pillow. It is basically a bouncy house without the roof and the walls. (Dang bankers. They’re even foreclosing on bouncy houses now?) No, the jump pillow concept eliminates the need to crawl in and out of the structure, which can be difficult for some children with disabilities. (It also can be difficult for fathers who spend their days sitting at a computer.)
  • An interactive, computer-generated floor. Not to get too technical on you, but there is this “stuff” that will create images on the floor that kids can interact with. For example, kids can kick back and forth a virtual soccer ball or run through the waves of a virtual ocean.
  • A traverse climbing wall, which means kids climb the wall sideways instead of reaching significant heights.
  • A children’s stage, complete with costumes, and an area for puppet shows.

The business also is contemplating adding a children’s karaoke room. That’s right. No word yet on whether the waiting area for parents will be soundproof. Also on tap will be a cafe area (something else will need to be on tap, if the waiting room isn’t soundproof).

“We’ve talked to a lot of parents, and there really isn’t a lot for children to do in Lawrence, especially when the weather is not very good,” Christie Peterson said. “There seems to be a lot of people traveling to Kansas City to go to these type of centers.”

Plans call for the business to be open by the end of May. Peterson said she expects rates will be about $7.50 per child, per day.

Doug Brown of McGrew Commercial brokered the real estate deal for the business.

• If your idea of a fun center is a golf course, a lounge and hopefully no children’s karaoke, then maybe the Alvamar Country Club is more your speed. Well, some of the faces have changed at that social hotspot. Dick Stuntz, the longtime golf course superintendent who later became general manager for the entire operations, has left the club. Stuntz had been with Alvamar for 29 years. But for the last few months he technically was an employee of Billy Casper Golf, which took over the day-to-day operations of Alvamar in 2011.

If you remember, Alvamar had placed itself on the market and thought it had a deal to be purchased by a golf course investment group. That group was going to use Billy Casper Golf to manage the facility. Well, the deal fell apart and the course and club are still owned by Alvamar Inc., I’m told. But the Alvamar board decided to create its own contract with Billy Casper Golf to run the operations.

I put a call into Stuntz and haven’t yet heard back, but Howard Kastl, the past chair of the club’s executive committee, said it is his understanding that it was completely Stuntz’s decision to leave the company.

“It wasn’t their wishes that he go,” Kastl said.

Also leaving the club is Cindy Brinkerhoff, who had spent 30 years with Alvamar, most recently as the club’s office administrator. Kastl said it is his understanding that both of the longtime employees leaving at once was coincidental.

I do have a call in to an Alvamar Inc. board member to check in on other club news. For instance, I still hear that making both sides of the 36-hole course private — currently one side is private and one is public — is still an option that is getting some discussion. If I hear any other news, I’ll pass it on.

I’ll also pass on some of these fun statistics that Stuntz shared in his farewell message to the club. During his 29 years with Alvamar he:

  • Managed about 3,000 employees
  • Helped provide 1.5 million rounds of golf
  • Changed 400,000 cups in the greens.
  • Mowed 300,000 greens
  • Spread 4,000 tons of sands in bunkers. (We could have done with less sand, Dick.)
  • Used 1.5 billion gallons of water to irrigate the two course.

One number he didn’t provide is the number of lost golf balls he found. His calculator probably began to smoke when he tried to do that calculation.

UPDATE: I did get ahold of Stuntz this afternoon. He said he chose to leave Alvamar after several friends in the golf industry had been "tugging at his arm" for quite awhile to look at some new ventures.

"I'm really excited about some of the opportunities I'm pursuing," Stuntz said. "But I think I did shock the folks at Alvamar and at Billy Casper Golf."

Stuntz said most of the deals he is working on are in the golf industry and mainly in the Kansas City area.

Design changes proposed in February 2012 for hotel/apartment building at the southeast corner of Ninth and New Hampshire streets in Downtown Lawrence.

Design changes proposed in February 2012 for hotel/apartment building at the southeast corner of Ninth and New Hampshire streets in Downtown Lawrence.

• We reported last week the development group looking to build a hotel/apartment building at the southeast corner of Ninth and New Hampshire had significantly changed its design for the project. Specifically, it made the eastern edge of the building one story shorter in hopes of winning over neighbors who have expressed concern about the height of the structure. Well, at the time, Lawrence-based Treanor Architects didn’t have any renderings of the new design to share. But they do now. Click on the rendering to the right and it will become larger. In addition to the shortened back edge of the building, the portion closest to Ninth and New Hampshire has added a glass story at its sixth level. That area will be a 4,000 square foot restaurant. Several other changes also were made to the design..

The city’s Historic Resources Commission is tentatively scheduled to consider the new design at its Feb. 16 meeting. If HRC commissioners approve it, the project won’t need to go to the City Commission for a blessing. But, if the HRC denies the design, city commissioners will get a chance to weigh in.

It will be interesting to watch, the height of the building has been a big concern of neighbors to the east. But as the building has shrunk in height, leaders of the East Lawrence Neighborhood Association are now reminding folks that the height was never the only issue. Leslie Soden, president of the East Lawrence Neighborhood Association told me that she believes many residents have a problem with the hotel use — an extended stay Marriott — itself.

“Part of the reason we don’t like the building is because it is a hotel,” Soden said. “We want some neighborhood services. Downtown seems like it is becoming more tourist-oriented. We don’t want a downtown that just seems to be serving tourists.”

Those comments won’t go over well with developers, who felt like they had a chance to gain some neighborhood support if they changed the design of the building. One thing that won’t change is the hotel use. It is driving the bus on this one.

My guess is the changes are done. Now the voting happens.


flyin_squirrel 6 years, 4 months ago

If the neighbors are going to continue to complain no matter what you do, make the hotel taller and get more people in the downtown area.

peartree 6 years, 4 months ago

If you don't like sprawl, then you must build 'up.' More neighborhood services cannot be supported as things are now; there are already empty spaces and struggling businesses within blocks. The best bet is to bring in more people with means to support downtown. The more spenders we pack downtown, the healthier and more economically viable it will be.
I realize there are some lovely older houses around there, but Mission Hills it ain't. Isn't the ratty building that houses the Social Service League (no offense, they do important work) across the alley from all of this? It seems like this building is quite a step up from it's would-be neighbors.

kuhusker 6 years, 4 months ago

Glad the developers want to build downtown instead of in the suburbs. The neighbors should have a voice, but not a veto; hope the City Commission looks at the interests of the whole town and approve this.

logicisking 6 years, 4 months ago

how dare the neighbors have not one but TWO good reasons not to have a 6 story building literally in their backyard. honestly the nerve of some people is just unbelievable

Bursting 6 years, 4 months ago

It's a hotel, right in the thick of one of the most busy spots in town. Not needed, we already have plenty of hotels.

jafs 6 years, 4 months ago

As long as no tax incentives, etc. are given, and developers bear the complete cost of any failed enterprises, I might agree.

With no tax write-offs for vacant buildings.

peartree 6 years, 4 months ago

I'll trade them for the football stadium in my backyard. Happily.

jhawkinsf 6 years, 4 months ago

Did you purchase your home before or after the football field was built?

peartree 6 years, 4 months ago

Stadium existed when we bought it. The new loudspeakers that keep my kids up after 10pm? Those came later.

Sean Williams 6 years, 4 months ago

Remember that the Arts Center was a diversion of building height next to a residential neighborhood -- but the neighbors "took one for the City." Sad that the Arts Center building, which serves the community as a non-profit, set a precedent for commercial development. Hobbs Taylor lofts has height, too, but also has a half block of clear space and another street before it eclipses the line of sight for the eastern neighbors. I suppose that there are those that would like to see the houses on Rhode Island erased, too. (I'm not one of them). The proposed height of the Mariott suites is disproportionate to the neighbor's homes. Can you imagine having a 6-story building across the alley from your back porch? The appropriate building height should be three stories, maximum. Maybe the Mariott, which has a track record of supporting historic areas, could find another place for their building.

pizzapete 6 years, 4 months ago

I agree, anything over 3 stories is too high for that location. Build it somewhere else.

Frank A Janzen 6 years, 4 months ago

Yes, keep it at 3 stories. Let someone else do the job at 3 stories, and let Treanor do something somewhere else.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 6 years, 4 months ago

Pure and simple, this an inappropriate use of these particular lots. That doesn't mean these lots have to sit empty. They just need to use them for something that doesn't overwhelm the neighbors, whether it's the Arts Center, or the residential neighborhood across the alley.

The developers need to find an appropriate lot for this hotel if they think it's really needed. They shouldn't just shoehorn it onto this lot simply because that's the lot they have an option to buy.

MarcoPogo 6 years, 4 months ago

They should build a new Mexican restaurant.

Jean Robart 6 years, 4 months ago

gee--that's not a bad idea---we sure could use another one

pizzapete 6 years, 4 months ago

I really like the idea of having a place for kids downtown. I hope they're open late so me and the wife can drop the kids off while we go out to eat and watch a movie.

ksarmychick 6 years, 4 months ago

If it is anything like the rest of children's public play areas, they won't let you just drop the kids off and leave. They will have to have an adult in the building to supervise the kids in case of an injury/emergency. I don't think this is going to opperate as a drop in babysitting service for your kids(unless they are over 18).

chootspa 6 years, 4 months ago

In other words, it's the Googols of Fun model, which didn't turn out to be profitable for them, IIRC, and they turned the business into a daycare instead. Maybe the downtown location will make a difference.

kernal 6 years, 4 months ago

Since the hotel is going to have a flat roof, is the Compton group going to make it a "green" roof as other cities are doing? Seems it would fit right in if the top floor is going to be a restaurant. There is also a Federal tax break for building green which might help with the additional costs. I don't know of any state tax break in Kansas.

In case anyone is wondering what the heck I'm talking about, here's a few links:

ksarmychick 6 years, 4 months ago

Didn't they just move a few doors down? I think they moved to where they are actually on Mass St.

justforfun 6 years, 4 months ago

The bank forclosed on the inventory sold it to an individual and now they are selling it on ebay, amazon, ect...

Steve Jacob 6 years, 4 months ago

All we need now is mini-golf, Go-Carts, and an arcade.

Judgesmails 6 years, 4 months ago

dont forget these nuggets for stuntz's resume: ruined small town golf courses in leavenworth, chanute, and iola. im prob leaving out a few. nice job, dick

Chad Lawhorn 6 years, 4 months ago

Interesting question. I'll try get to it someday. Right now, I'm sitting in a City Commission meeting, after eating in a Mexican restaurant for supper. Maybe not the best combo. Thanks, Chad

jhawkinsf 6 years, 4 months ago

I'm just going to throw it out there, but that new Mexican place out on 31st. (I can't remember the name), is pretty darn good. Gone there twice.

skittles 6 years, 4 months ago

"Maybe not the best combo. "

Okay...pretty funny. However you aren't the most noxious person in the room.

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