Archive for Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Town Talk: Signs point to Self, city soon publicly endorsing west Lawrence youth fieldhouse project; city leaders have big athletic events in their sights; commissioners OK downtown events

March 7, 2012


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News and notes from around town:

• That’s either a growing drumbeat or about 1,000 bouncing youth basketballs that I hear. Either way, it sure appears the city is marching ever quicker toward this idea of a youth fieldhouse/tournament center in northwest Lawrence.

I expect that pace to pick up significantly very soon because multiple sources tell me Kansas University basketball coach Bill Self is set to publicly endorse the idea of a public/private partnership to build an approximately 12-gym fieldhouse near the northwest corner of Sixth Street and the South Lawrence Trafficway.

That endorsement could come as soon as today. City commissioners met in executive session for one hour Tuesday night to discuss a possible acquisition of property. After they emerged from the closed-door session, they announced city staff members would be crafting a public statement in the near future about the proposed acquisition of a piece of property.

Talks have centered on a 40- to 50-acre tract near the northwest corner of the Sixth and SLT interchange. It is expected a development group led by Steve and Duane Schwada will donate the property to the city. But the city will incur expense related to city water, sewer and roads to make the site usable. Plus, the big unknown is how much the city will be asked to spend to actually build the new center vs. how much private developers will pay?

Thomas and Tim Fritzel — leaders of the Lawrence-based Gene Fritzel Construction Co. — were both at City Hall Tuesday night, and stuck around to talk to City Manager David Corliss after the executive session. Neither Fritzel had much to say about the idea of a youth fieldhouse, but my understanding is that both would be part of the private development group that would partner with the city.

Self has been interested in supporting the project through his Assists Foundation. Whether the Kansas University Athletics Corp. also comes out in public support of the project will be interesting. My understanding is the athletic department has strong interest in the project, in part because the property could house a track and field facility. That could perhaps clear the way for the track to be moved out of Memorial Stadium at some point.

I’ll be keeping my eyes open for some sort of statement from City Hall and Coach Self’s organization. I’ll let you know when I see one.

• If this project moves forward, the indoor fieldhouse with its basketball, volleyball, soccer and youth football facilities will get a lot of the public’s attention. But I can tell you that economic development leaders are very interested in the track part of this as well.

Before Tuesday night’s meeting I was talking with Bob Sanner — the guy at the Lawrence Convention and Visitors Bureau who works to attract sporting events to Lawrence — and he is very high on Lawrence’s potential to host youth track and field events.

“Track can be as big as we want it to be at this point,” Sanner said. “If the conditions were right, Lawrence can be a track town.”

In fact there is one meet in particular that I think several folks have circled as a potential prize. Sanner told me the AAU Junior Olympics traditionally draws 12,500 athletes over an 11-day period to its host city. It has been estimated the event pumps about $34 million in the economy of its host city. In the past, the event has been held in Des Moines, Hampton Roads, Va., New Orleans and, this year, Houston.

Lawrence obviously would have to build its way up to such an event, but if you remember, the national athletics chairman for AAU was in Lawrence in January to tour the city and the Rim Rock Cross Country facility just north of town.

“AAU was extremely positive in their comments to us,” Sanner said. “They feel like Lawrence is untapped territory for them.”

• Speaking of events, city commissioners at Tuesday night’s meeting unanimously approved a trio of events slated for Downtown Lawrence — a shot put and long jump competition as part of the Kansas Relays, the Tour of Lawrence, and the Rev it Up Hot Rod Hullabaloo.

All three events will involve some street closures in downtown. Last year, the idea of closing city streets downtown became a touchy subject with several merchants. In particular there was opposition to the Hot Rod Hullabaloo event that closed the stretch of Massachusetts Street that runs through South Park. Several merchants said closing that portion of Mass. on a Saturday would be a major blow for business in the downtown area.

Well, on Tuesday, there were no such concerns presented. In fact City Commissioners Mike Amyx and Bob Schumm were the two commissioners who last year were most opposed to the car show idea. But last night, both took time to publicly tell the car show organizers that they had their full support for the event.

“I want to say it was a well-run operation,” Schumm said. “It did not cause any trouble. I checked with a number of merchants after the event, and they said the same thing.”

Amyx said he heard the same positive response.

“In fact, I’ve had a number of people ask me when the event is going to be this year,” Amyx said. “So, get ready.”

The car show, which last year raised $6,400 for Big Brothers/Big Sisters, has changed its date. Last year it was held in the fall. This year it is set for Aug. 11.


justfoodks 6 years ago

And this year, it will benefit Just Food, the food bank in Douglas County! We are incredibly excited about this partnership and very grateful!

justfoodks 6 years ago

That is, the Rev It Up Hot Rod Hullabaloo!

hipper_than_hip 6 years ago

Are these the same folks that own the SRS office that the city and county bailed out? Didn't they also have another property in east Lawrence that they wanted the city to pay the lease on?

Richard Heckler 6 years ago

I would like to see 90% private money to eliminate the size of the risk to taxpayers. I would also like to see the city get at least a 30% margin on the taxpayers investment for each profit making event. After all it is the taxpayers money plus the many many many miles of new infrastructure, including emergency equipment, LPD participation etc etc etc.

If the city is going to be an active business participant the taxpayers need to be profiteers as well. Why give away the farm to a management company?

flyin_squirrel 6 years ago

I would like to see a top rate facility that even the public can use (meaning some public money), and a top rate facility to attract events to lawrence.

And people like you merrill would prefer we do nothing to try and grow our tax base, increase money for out of town visitors, and grow. We cannot continue to live off only the students in town, and need to think outside the box. If Merrill had his way and lived in Wyndotte, the Legends would have been a doomed project that would bankrupt the city...

gl0ck0wn3r 6 years ago

Funny how Merrill didn't feel the same way about the library.

jhawkinsf 6 years ago

Not every investment a city, (or county or country) makes is supposed to make a profit in return. Maybe we should charge every rider of the "T" $100 so it could make a profit. Maybe garnish the wages of former welfare recipients at a rate of 2/1 so we can get our money back and make a profit. The fact is cities spend tax money knowing they will neither get a return on that investment much less a profit. If the Rec. center is deemed in the best interests of the city, then do it. If not, then don't. But your fixation on the city's need to make a profit just because someone else is making a profit distracts from whether or not the Rec. center will benefit the city's residents.

nativeson 6 years ago

The funding for this venture will be from the 1994 sales tax passed exclusively for recreation. This tax does not currently have a sunset clause, and it has been used since the tax was put in place to pay for the indoor acquatic center which will retire their bonds soon. I believe this is a good project and can stand on its merits. Why not make it a public vote to sustain the sales tax much like the bond issue for the library expansion?

no_thanks 6 years ago

I'm all for a private-public rec center, but how is it that with two gymnasiums at each Junior High and High School that we continue to lack available gym space, especially for hosting AAU tournaments that run through the Spring and Summer? My biggest fear in this is the public investment as the City will either contribute way too much or enter some ridiculous lease through Parks and Rec that helps justify the private investment. Further, I would hope that they are considering alternative locations that may be done cheaper than what is being proposed (are we considering other locations such as the Farmland location on ground owned by the City; are we considering the option of converting vacant warehouses (see Cougar's Court), and

pace 6 years ago

If the City is going to partner in this, my hopes are; 1. Get professional level screening for pedophiles, don't leave it to victims to speak out years later. 2. Put in safety requirements, what doctors and health professionals will they have on field to deal with concussions and injuries? What policy about kids playing hurt and testing for concussions and being cleared to play after hits and injuries. 3. Put in clear and demanding policy to protect the kids. 4. Get signed contracts from officials involved, stating they will not cover up abuses and injuries for the good of the facility.

pace 6 years ago

That is the typical view of a sports fan with out thought. 911 is a lousy plan for a response to an on field injury. Call 911 if someone send your kid back in after a hard blow to the head. Can you spell stupid? It is the answer of, let us just hope nothing happens. Everything is top of the line, except for the care of the kids. I am sure if more parents heard that plain and clear they would just jump at the chance of sacrificing their kid for the success of this venture. Millions for field and advertising, but no can't afford a sport health official to guard the kids. Sick of that attitude. You are sure that any cover up would be a legal matter. I bet you think taking basketball tickets to fix a dui is against the law. Lets put these kids in your capable hands.

pace 6 years ago

If you are a coach, you should have a clear and firm policy about injury. We are not talking about an ambulance outside every gym, for one thing we aren't talking about gyms inside a school. This is a major facility. What medical training have you had? Or are you depending on all the bits and pieces you have picked up? Your hands are not capable if you don't consider the facility in regard to response. I question your judgement if you just assume you are correct in medical and legal matters. Don't go with your feelings, do some research.

pace 6 years ago

Your remark "No league, tournament or organization does diddly without a signed waiver from the parents." does not represent anything but protection for the organization.

pace 6 years ago

It is hard to do the research on what you don't understand. Is it illegal for you to suspect child abuse and not report it, as a coach? Is it against the law as a coach not to report another coach for improper playing of an injured player? Your questions are too vague and your response of what level and type of real training you have had is also vague. Some answers vary depending upon what training and what position you hold. I don't care about how you feel about your ability to diagnose and treat a head injury, what real training have you had?

pace 6 years ago

  1. I think the city runs coach and referee's names to see if they have been convicted of sex crimes. While that is an important part of professional screening, some organizations do more. Also Head coaches and referees aren't the only personnel involved. Plus how can you claim that these rules will apply to the new facility? Many institution prefer to leave that to the participating organizations and to the parents. I hope this facility will aim for a higher standard.

I hope they will and beyond just running names for convicted sex offenders. But no. you are assuming. You want everyone to trust based on how you feel, you feel there is nothing to worry about, you feel someone will take care that procedure will be understood and followed. There are plenty of news stories that show that type of common sense just isn't enough, there must be procedure spelled out. and enforced, if you really care about protecting the kids and not just protecting the institution.
2. I understand as a professional you don't want to take on the responsibility if a kid is harmed but organizations across the country are implementing procedures where there is follow up on concussions and injuries before the kids are allowed to play again. Not just leaving it to the parents and kids, but including medical professionals.

blindrabbit 6 years ago

Where does KUAD stand on a track and field venue. Was there some talk of a combined one, KU, City?? Always a lot of scuttlebutt about KU wanting to move Relays from Memorial Stadium; would this fit there needs, too far from campus???

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 6 years ago

A facility similar to Holcomb or the Community Building or the E. Lawrence Rec Center would be sufficient to meet current city rec needs. I'd guess that could be done for $5 million or less. If the city invests that much (and likely much, much more) into this mega-facility, but it is generally reserved primarily to meet the needs of private interests, I don't see how that addresses the recreational needs of the city.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 6 years ago

You might be surprised by this, but not everyone sees recreational needs solely through a basketball lens.

I'm not necessarily opposed to his project, but if all it does is provide for the narrow interests of a few, at the expense of meeting any other rec needs, then it's a no-go as far as I'm concerned.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 6 years ago

If this facility really will be frequently available for wide use and multiple purposes by the general public, then spending a reasonable amount of public monies on it is fine.

But the devil is in the details, of which we have none, at this point.

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