Archive for Sunday, July 29, 2012

More questions

City officials should take all the time they need to work out the details of a proposed recreation complex in northwest Lawrence.

July 29, 2012


In the 1800s, a character in Harriet Beecher Stowe’s “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” inspired the expression “grow like Topsy,” which has come to describe anything that seems to grow wildly and perhaps without sufficient intention or design.

Hopefully that will not become an apt phrase to describe the evolution of a proposed city recreation complex in northwest Lawrence — a project that started out as an effort to take advantage of a generous $1 million gift from Bill and Cindy Self’s Assists Foundation and already has grown into a facility that will require a $24 million investment from city taxpayers, not counting the cost of extending city infrastructure to the site.

A public meeting on Monday revealed more details about the center, but it also raised some new questions that must be considered and answered before the city makes a decision on whether to move forward on this project.

Parking plans for the project have drawn some well-deserved comment. How does it work to have an 800-car parking lot to serve a 10,000-seat track and field stadium — or even a 2,000-seat soccer field or a fieldhouse that could accommodate up to 1,900 spectators? City officials assure us that facilities such as fitness areas, the indoor walking track and multipurpose areas will be open to the general public even during major tournament events, but good luck finding a parking space.

Much attention has been focused on the major new athletic events this complex could attract to Lawrence. It’s exciting to consider the economic impact of the many amateur youth sports events that might use the facility, not to mention the possibility of attracting the Big 12 or national NCAA track and field championships. But it’s important to remember the everyday fitness and recreation needs of local residents. What, if any, fees will be charged to local residents who want to use the indoor walking track or weight room? Access to the facility also needs to be considered. The need to extend city bus service to the site has been discussed, but can the city’s T provide adequate service to a location that should be serving both children and adults?

Also, there is some question of how the economic impact of a new facility at the edge of town will be spread across the community. How much direct financial benefit can the city expect to draw, based on similar facilities in other cities? Will downtown businesses and hotels benefit from these events or will the primary benefit be for new hotels, restaurants and retail outlets that will sprout up near the new complex?

It’s true that the KU track facility could be a major factor in drawing events and visitors to Lawrence, but should the city drive a harder financial bargain with the university? Current plans are for KU and its private donors to pay for the construction and maintenance of the track facility but nothing for the land or the cost of extending utilities to the site. Also, city officials say they don’t expect the public to have any access to the track for walking and jogging.

As noted above, the proposed recreation complex presents some tantalizing economic development possibilities for the city. This project clearly is on the fast track, and it’s moving so fast that many residents (taxpayers) are having a hard time keeping up with the planning and the details. The effort to blend the needs of a community recreation facility with those of a regional sports destination, a major university track facility and associated for-profit development may work beautifully, but it is a complex equation that city officials should take the time to review carefully before committing so many local tax dollars.


Richard Heckler 5 years, 4 months ago

This is a hot topic no question. Therefore why not make this item the only agenda item for the CC to discuss? This issue takes time. The new hotel is another issue that should be a loner item.


Because voting taxpayers need more information and cannot afford time for the long commission meetings. It would be helpful if commissioners could offer some in depth well planned comments as to how they come to their conclusions on most agenda items.

Field House Specific: 1. $ 24 million tax dollars knowing USD 497 has already spent more than 20 million $$$ 2. plus infrastructure costs 3. free land to the wealthy KU sports Inc 4. Regional destination? 5. What return on the tax dollar investment can taxpayers expect? 6. Why not the east side off 4 lane K-10 somewhere?

This issue began as a neighborhood rec center yet has exploded into quite an expensive field house project. And on the west side of town which is questionable.

It seems to me most traffic will be coming from the JoCo/KC metro. Why not consider a K-10 location on the east side of Lawrence? My guess is these enthusiasts would appreciate the practical thinking behind this thought. There is certainly plenty of vacant land off K-10.

A regional sports destination? How many regional sports destinations can be supported in an area that has two. ...Topeka and KCMO/JoCo. Is there a need for 3 regional sports destinations is such close proximity?

Is it assumed that Lawrence will be the location of choice? If so why?

How can the more than $20 million $$$ athletic project USD 497 taxpayers are paying for to serve the identical purpose of new economic growth for Lawrence,Kansas be forgotten in this discussion? Taxpayers could easily acquire a $70 million $$$ investment/debt in economic growth based on athletic events.

According to what I read this country is 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. The industry as a whole is not profitable.

Richard Heckler 5 years, 4 months ago

How can the city legitimately help the school district? Perhaps the city should purchase the 75 acres USD 497 purchased for $1.73 million? Yes for this project. The city could offer $1.75 million.

The Lawrence school district has paid $1.73 million to purchase a prime piece of property that would be prominent along the proposed route of the South Lawrence Trafficway.

At their Oct. 26 meeting, school board members approved the purchase of 76 acres of farm and pasture ground southeast of Lawrence. The property, near the intersection of East 1750 and North 1300 roads, would be just west of where the South Lawrence Trafficway would connect with the existing Kansas Highway 10 east of Lawrence.

School district leaders said they did not have a firm plan for the property.

USD 497 could certainly use the money as we speak to help rehab school district buildings.

jhawkinsf 5 years, 4 months ago

In my opinion, using such large font should be a rules violation of this forum.

RoeDapple 5 years, 4 months ago


Richard Heckler 5 years, 4 months ago

I didn't and do not use large fonts ..... that's how it comes up.... out of nowhere.

Anyway the topic is wayyyyyy more important than font size....

Why build more hotels near the place? We'll need to fill up what we have.

This editorial brings up points of interest which deserve consideration.

jhawkinsf 5 years, 4 months ago

"Out of nowhere" - yeah, right. It has never happened to me. Maybe if you quit copying and pasting so much, it wouldn't happen to you either.

And if the topic is so important, important enough that you think others in this forum should read it, then quit copying and pasting so much. That's precisely when I tune you out. And I suspect there are others who do likewise. I would like to know what you have to say, but I have no desire to read it again and again, and again, and again, and ... You get my point.

Terry Sexton 5 years, 4 months ago

I am a huge proponent of this thing. There should be zero usage fees for folks & even with a jogging track, I'd also like occasional access to the outdoor track.

Falsie had a snarky, yet coherent, thought about riding the bus to get there.

Richard Heckler 5 years, 4 months ago

This project is not close to any neighborhood necessarily which begs the question how can this be called a rec center?

There is land available near Free State High School which is available. Again there is also the USD 497 land purchase that could be put to better use off a 4 lane highway.

This $20 million $$$ athletic project USD 497 taxpayers are paying for basically to serve the identical purpose of new economic growth for Lawrence,Kansas should NOT be forgotten in this discussion? Taxpayers could easily acquire a $70 million $$$ investment/debt in economic growth based on athletic events.

What return on the tax dollar investment can taxpayers expect? We're not interested in doing this for the fun of it. There are better ways to spend tax dollars:

  1. Forget the 9th and New Hampshire hotel and build the library at this location.
  2. Convert the current library building into a stand alone convention center. This would certainly pay back the taxpayers and downtown Lawrence.
  3. Build the extended stay on the NW corner of 9th and New Hampshire without my tax dollars. Though I still say there is no market.

Richard Heckler 5 years, 4 months ago

Do the pros outweigh the cons of the new proposed sports complex? The answer appears to be no. (Taxpayers are on the hook for the more than $20 million USD 497 sports project as we speak).

Richard Heckler 5 years, 4 months ago

1994 Sales tax money

It is time in my estimation to revisit this 1994 sales tax and ask voters how elected officials should be spending this money. For any group of politicians to believe that voters blindly trust politicians with their tax dollars is not real and hasn't been for at least 50 years.

Bring the voting taxpayers back into the process after all we are the largest group of stakeholders in Lawrence,Kansas.

"Can the city approve this “Field House” without a public vote?" Yes they can.... Which could easily become $40 million or more. This project will need a very large advertising budget.

However there is nothing stopping them from putting this matter on the upcoming ballot which I believe is the ethical approach.

Politicians believe because they have the authority to spend tax dollars anyway they desire, no questions should be asked and voters should simply trust their motivations. I know very few taxpayers who accept this position.

This 1994 sales tax is not dedicated to the park department in spite of the fact a large chunk has been funding park department projects. This money could be spent to rehab our elementary schools and remove the portable class rooms that has been talked about for years thereby avoiding a tax increase or a bond issue.

This money could be spent to rehab the library thereby eliminating a tax increase as I introduced to the city commission perhaps a year ago and the LJW more or less supported this proposal in an editorial. In fact 5%-10% of this sales tax could be dedicated to the library for operations still leaving 90% for other uses that benefit all taxpayers.

This money could build this community a nice Vo-Tech center. College grads could improve their opportunities for employment. High school grads could improve their opportunities for employment. Laid off employees could improve their opportunities for employment. Anyone seeking to broaden their horizons could improve their opportunities.

Providing a nice Vo-Tech would be expanding the higher education industry. Investing further into the industry of higher education would be a solid investment. Students are good for economic growth and they love Lawrence,Kansas.

Committing tax dollars to the "field house project" is likely on the upcoming city commission agenda which I believe is rushing it considering the amount of concern being voiced from just about every corner in Lawrence,Kansas.

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