City Hall

City Hall

City puts plans for west Lawrence recreation center on hold

February 14, 2012


Lawrence city commissioners on Tuesday slowed down the process of designing a potential west Lawrence recreation center after a mysterious private development group sent word that it may be interested in building its own facility that could meet the city’s needs.

Commissioners at their weekly meeting were scheduled to approve a $55,000 contract with the Lawrence architectural firm of Gould Evans to create conceptual designs and cost estimates so that commissioners could decide whether to commit to the project.

But City Commissioner Mike Dever asked fellow commissioners to not execute the contract in order for a private development group to have more time to present its thoughts to city officials.

“I think private enterprise believes there might be a chance for it to meet some needs here,” Dever said after the meeting. “I think all this talk of how a facility could bring regional tournaments and events to the city has opened up the eyes of some private investors.”

Dever declined to identify the lead member of the group — although he confirmed it involved a local investor — because he said the individual asked him to not yet do so. Dever said he also didn’t want to raise the public’s expectations because he’s uncertain how feasible a private facility could be.

“These calls really have come at the 11th hour,” Dever said. “I just got called about it (Monday).”

Commissioners agreed on a 4-1 vote to delay taking action on the Gould Evans contract and a $16,500 contract with a private fundraising firm for two weeks. Commissioner Mike Amyx voted against the motion because he said he’s not convinced now is the right time to be considering building a recreation center.

Members of the city’s parks and recreation advisory board and the city’s director of parks and recreation all said they weren’t aware of any details about the private offer. But parks and recreation advocates said the city would need to be careful to ensure that a private center would meet the need of providing low-cost recreation to Lawrence residents.

Dever said he believes the development has an idea of building a center and then leasing parts of it back to the city while also using other parts of it to host tournaments and other events. Dever said he believes any private center would need to be located on the west side of Lawrence, if the developers wanted cooperation from the city.

“Anything we would agree to would have to meet the needs identified by parks and recreation,” Dever said, adding that he thinks a private center would need to have not only gym space but also workout and wellness space.

At least one private development group has expressed an interest in working with the city on the project. A group led by members of the Duane and Steve Schwada families have expressed an interest in donating land at Sixth and the South Lawrence Trafficway for the center.

Kansas University basketball coach Bill Self’s Assists Foundation also has expressed interest in donating $1 million or more to build a center that could attract regional tournaments and events to the city. It wasn’t known Tuesday whether Self’s foundation has had discussions with the private group.

City Manager David Corliss and other city officials are expected to meet with the private group in the next week.


deec 6 years, 2 months ago

If private business thinks they can make money in the rec. biz, let them. Only leave out the inevitable corporate welfare that will go with it. Why should the city subsidize a private business by leasing their property? If there is such a huge need for more adult playgrounds, let private enterprise fill the need. It is ridiculous that the city is even considering spending tax money in hard times for more more nonessential services for jocks.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 6 years, 2 months ago

I think there would be sufficient support for a complex similar to Holcomb or the E. Lawrence center in W. Lawrence, but not for the $15 million mega-complex.

If there is going to be a mega-complex, it should an expansion of Holcomb, which is more centrally located.

deec 6 years, 2 months ago

Kids don't need multimillion dollar buildings to be active. They used to know how to play in parks, yards and, in urban areas, streets. Before all sports were organized in leagues, children played for fun and exercise, and folks had yards for their children to play on, not lawns to show off for their neighbors. I am a vegetarian, and I do not watch television.

Cant_have_it_both_ways 6 years, 2 months ago

If there is such a huge need for more adult playgrounds, let private enterprise fill the need. +++++++++++++++++++++++++ Many of us feel the same way about the empT, new library, new bus barn, the Arts center and commission, Public Radio and Television and the rest of the left wing agenda we so do enjoy in Larrytown. Seems to me that the other day someone said you don't even live in Larryville, and if that is the case you should consider butting out of city business!

deec 6 years, 2 months ago

No I don't live in Lawrence since it is too expensive for me to live in my home town. I would have voted against the parking library, the Arts Center, and the bus barn. I voted against the myriad school bonds when I lived therefor 20+ years.

irvan moore 6 years, 2 months ago

a mysterious stranger, does he have a horse named silver? how cool would that be.

Richard Heckler 6 years, 2 months ago

Fine and wonderful. Don't spend any tax dollars on this project. The talk is "private investment" isn't that what we being led to believe?

Donating land? I don't believe it. Tax dollar credit or tax dollar write off I would believe. No one involved in Lawrence real estate gives anything for free.

“I think all this talk of how a facility could bring regional tournaments and events to the city has opened up the eyes of some private investors.” We're talking more PLAY which is a lot about speculation = should have been private investment through and through. Taxpayers have been duped once by the USD 497 $20,000,000 investment in PLAY.

Community indicated not interested in expensive athletic project.

Should the city spend $20 million or more on the PLAY project?

Richard Heckler 6 years, 2 months ago

Voters should have the right to approve this far more expensive neighborhood rec center than has typically been built in years past. Where is the justification?

Can the City Commission provide hard evidence that 50% or more of taxpayers want their tax dollars spent on this extension of the PLAY project?

Let's be reminded that USD 497 has spent $20 million plus additional operating expenses on PLAY.

Taxpayers were forced to vote:

  1. for a sales tax dedicated for the T

  2. for a sales tax dedicated for road and pot hole maintenance

  3. for a sales tax dedicated for the library

Taxpayers were avoided on the USD 497 spending of $20 million for PLAY.

How about empowering the taxpayers to decide if this is how taxpayers want the 1% or 1 cent sales tax NOT necessarily dedicated to the park department spent. This seems extravagant and reckless.

Let the taxpayers decide how reckless we choose to be.

classclown 6 years, 2 months ago

biggunz (anonymous) says…

I'd gladly spend my money on a new rec center over that overpriced library! February 15, 2012 at 8:24 a.m.


One way or another, you're going to end up doing both.

somedude20 6 years, 2 months ago

I am blown away that it costs $55,000 to draw a picture. Heck, I will draw you a building for $55 and a bottle of boulevard chocolate ale!

BruceWayne 6 years, 2 months ago

Sixth Glass...the Choco Ale is not that good.

Richard Heckler 6 years, 2 months ago

West Lawrence has the YSI and way more hike and bike trails than any side of town. It's all about selling houses not people's health.

With all the hike and bike trails and nice new wide sidewalks throughout west Lawrence, plenty of "health" clubs and the indoor aquatic pool at Free State west Lawrence has hardly been neglected. Quite the contrary.

On the other hand east Lawrence streets probably have not been maintained well for 30 years or more. Sidewalks need plenty of help but the city will neither fix them nor will they force their pals the slumlords to fix or clean them. A lot of east Lawrence streets are hazardous to cyclists.

mom_of_three 6 years, 2 months ago

YSI is not a recreation center. Its soccer fields, baseball fields and hosts football. Its not the same as a recreation center where basketball tourneys could be hosted or people could go to the gym.

Terry Sexton 6 years, 2 months ago

There is a great justification for it no matter who builds it. If it's private, fine, but I support it either way. I hope it is on a large & grandiose scale to attract events to our community. Make it a destination spot for all kinds of fitness related stuff. Put in a jogging track, please.

Merrill sez: "Donating land? I don't believe it. Tax dollar credit or tax dollar write off I would believe. No one involved in Lawrence real estate gives anything for free." Why is that a negative? It's called a win-win.

flyin_squirrel 6 years, 2 months ago


Everything with Merrill is a negative. Just skip his posts. He is one of those people who is miserable and just needs to complain. As many successful people have said, surround yourself with positive people and push negative people out of your life.

HootyWho 6 years, 2 months ago

I've lived in east lawrence for the past year, and actually the streets could be better over here,,drive down 13 street past Haskell,,and tell me what you think

Carol Bowen 6 years, 2 months ago

Building the rec center with private funds is the way to go. If there really are potential profits, the owners will benefit. If not, the taxpayers will not lose. Parks and Recreation needs to address everyone's expectations, not just those who like sports complexes.

FrankDrebin 6 years, 2 months ago

I don't see the big deal about the city subsidizing more recreation facilities. After all, we as taxpayers have been subsidizing a golf course since its existence, what is a few more million.

Carol Bowen 6 years, 2 months ago

What about a skating rink, miniature golf, toddler parks, neighborhood parks, field trips, more senior activities, maintaining existing parks, ...? Our neighborhood park is barely maintained. Grass is growing through the tennis court and basketball court. The grass is mowed too high and infrequently. There is no playground equipment for younger children.

JackMcKee 6 years, 2 months ago

Lawrence. I don't even know where to start.

I think a "mysterious private development group" pretty much runs the town.

James Minor 6 years, 2 months ago

The city should require the investors to add an indoor track for high school events. The more opportunities to keep kids off the streets and drugs is great. Adults can relive their childhood with dodgeball and indoor soccer.

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