Archive for Thursday, March 8, 2012

It’s official: Bill Self, KU want to join city in development of rec center, fieldhouse

March 8, 2012, 2:07 p.m. Updated March 8, 2012, 3:29 p.m.


Kansas University men’s basketball coach Bill Self has thrown his support behind a proposed public-private partnership that would build a new youth fieldhouse and recreation center in northwest Lawrence.

In a statement released Thursday by the city of Lawrence, Self said the Bill and Cindy Self’s Assists Foundation is among the partners working to construct a multicourt fieldhouse and recreation center at the northwest corner of Sixth Street and the South Lawrence Trafficway.

“Cindy and I founded Assists out of the desire to help our community meet a need for recreational and wellness space. It has been our goal to be a part of a project that benefits our community and that is accessible and beneficial to everybody, especially our youth,” Self said in the statement. “This particular project has the potential to be even more impactful than anything we’ve been working towards to date.

“Through the generosity of partners, we believe we’ve been given an avenue to help make Lawrence not only a great place to live for our citizens but also a destination. In terms of recreational space, public accessibility and economic impact for our community, this project is very, very exciting and far exceeds our original goals.”

The city’s statement said a new center — if city commissioners formally approve the partnership — likely would include multiple basketball courts that could be converted into half courts or used for volleyball, a large arena, an indoor elevated track, an indoor turf field, a health and wellness center, a fitness facility, and amenities including concessions and walking trails.

City Manager David Corliss stressed city commissioners have not yet formally committed to the project but said excitement about the facility’s ability to bring major youth sporting events to the city is high.

“I think the project has tremendous upside,” Corliss said. “The opportunity to host these events and bring people from across the country, perhaps even internationally, to this location could be tremendous for the community.”

The city also confirmed Kansas University and Kansas Athletics are “currently exploring the opportunity to also locate certain KU facilities at this site.” Sources have told the Journal-World the university is interested in locating a track and field facility at the site.

The city statement did not provide any cost estimates for the project or any information about what level the city would financially participate in the public-private partnership. Corliss said the next several weeks would involve discussions with the city’s Parks and Recreation advisory board, area landowners and other stakeholders interested in the project.

“We have not been presented with a completed plan,” Corliss said. “In the coming weeks and months ahead, we’ll have a lot to discuss and lot of opportunity for input.”

Specifically, Corliss said the city will want to discuss agreements involving the design of the facility, financial participation by the city, donation of the property, city infrastructure needs, and discussions about whether the city or a private party will operate the facility. Corliss said city officials are interested in ensuring the facility would be able to meet the recreation needs of community members in addition to serving as an attraction for regional or national tournaments.

“That has repeatedly been mentioned by all the partners as being an important component,” Corliss said. “Even when the facility is hosting a tournament, we want there to be a gym available for use by the public.”

Corliss confirmed the city primarily has been working with Thomas Fritzel, an executive with Lawrence-based Gene Fritzel Construction. Corliss said Fritzel is working to bring in other partners to the project. It has been speculated the partnership ultimately will include Lawrence businessmen Steve and Duane Schwada, who are part of a development group that owns property at the corner. The city confirmed that current plans call for the property that would house the new center to be donated to the city.


Marilyn Hull 5 years, 9 months ago

So happy to hear that a deal may be coming together. The rec space is so badly needed, and I love the indoor track and wellness parts!

Jimo 5 years, 9 months ago

By definition, if this rec space was "so badly needed" (a/k/a, an adequate number of people valued the service and were willing to pay to get it) then someone should have already come forward to supply the need.

Either: A) This is another "City Golf Course" boondoggle where a handful of politically influential people vote themselves benefits to be paid for by everyone else, or

B) Some unique barrier exists to this project that only the City is capable of overcoming (there are immutable imperfections in the market that prevent optimal efficiency)

I insist that the City - before committing to anything - commission a study by a real economist to provide an answer to this question: how is a significant unmet need not met by the marketplace? How is it that no one is willing to resolve this no-brainer of "badly needed" services by investing money today and expecting a longterm profit on the venture? In other words: what do those whose desire for profit should make them jump to meet this unmet need know that nobody else seems to know?

But I doubt that'll happen. You see, anytime that some people think that they can get something, if not for nothing than for less than full price, they'll jump on the bargain if they can force it through politically. They get "everything" but unless "everyone" uses the facility then those who do use it will get back more than they pay in ..... directly at the expense of those who don't use the facility. Those who don't use? People who aren't interested, people who don't have time, people who live roughly in the 1/2 SE part of Lawrence, people who pay directly already for a 'better' experience, etc., etc.

I don't believe even a well paid basketball coach has the sums to risk on such large business ventures. But I do suspect he knows those who do. Why don't these masters of the universe form an LLC, invest the money necessary to build this facility themselves, and then charge admission at the door with an eye to paying off the invested capital in, say, 20 years, and reap profits thereafter? That is, if it is such a good idea? Somehow, I believe we already know the answer to that. People "need" it so long as they can be hoodwinked into (indirectly) thinking that it's "free" or at least "cheap." Charge them full price (directly), however, and they'll redefine "need" to "wants" quite quickly, downscaling this already bloated white elephant project (gee, why can't we have 4 icerinks, a bowling alley, and a world-class white-water rafting course too?) to a narrow core of "true need."

The best thing the City can do here is to pledge that if some private group supplies this "badly needed" service then the City won't build a competing facility within 5 miles over the next 30 years.

Jayhawk_4_Life 5 years, 9 months ago

now that you got that out of your system...

Jimo 5 years, 9 months ago

If you don't have anything to say ....

Joe Adams 5 years, 9 months ago

Thanks for the info Chad! Do you have any information about what the large arena will be used for? Maybe you can see if there is any interest by the people involved in the decision making process to include an ice rink? Or at least the opportunity to grow into an ice rink?

Jeff Kilgore 5 years, 9 months ago

Classic Cindy and Bill Self. Excellent community members.

Bob Forer 5 years, 9 months ago

While I am sure several of the developers behind this project see dollar signs, I honestly believe that Bill and Cindy Self are simply "paying it foward" to the community. I have never met the couple, but based on what I have seen, my gut feeling is that they are good and decent folks.

Jayhawk_4_Life 5 years, 9 months ago

and why can't you assume the same about the other developers?

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 9 months ago

The devil remains in the details (of which we still have none.) If the city invests $10 million (or name any other figure) in this venture, how will we determine whether or not the community gets $10 million in access to the facilities?

As I have pointed out, a facility similar to Holcom or the E. Lawrence Rec Center would go a long way towards reducing or even eliminating (for now) the "deficit" in rec facilities in this town if the strict purpose is to meet the needs of this community, and not those of KU Athletics or private interests promoting regional competitions that would only involve a small number of local residents.

It may very well be possible to meet lots of needs/wants by lots of organizations, as well as the needs of the local community-- but that won't necessarily be the case just because it's big and shiny and new and Bill and Cindy Self have said that's what we need. I'm sure they mean well, but it'll be up to the community at large to make sure it's not just a vanity project for a few movers and shakers (with a big price tag for taxpayers.)

Richard Heckler 5 years, 9 months ago

How much is private?

How much are taxpayers being forced to pay?

Face it folks this is about selling real estate.

And this is part of PLAY which is all about profiteering so how much in profits will taxpayers get in return? How much will the "manager" take away? This will takes years to make a successful for profit venture if ever.

USD 497 has dumped more than $20 million into this PLAY project. Taxpayers deserve a very candid discussion on this matter aka transparency.

This project is based on a similar set up in a suburb of Dallas,Texas. Dallas,Texas is at least 2-3 times larger than KCMO and Lawrence is a suburb to no large city.

The people pushing this project are generally the same group who brought taxpayers Riverfront Plaza,Tanger Mall and New Urbanism all of which are mammoth failures which cost taxpayers money.

JayhawkFan1985 5 years, 9 months ago

I suggest building the new rec center near free state high school. Perhaps there is room at Bauer farm as it has remained undeveloped for years longer than anticipated. At any rate, west of K10 would be in an area not currently served by transit and very dangerous to walk/bike to.

Sue McDaniel 5 years, 9 months ago

I would like to see a outdoor pool on this plan! I grew up with one and it is a great gathering spot for all ages!

doc1 5 years, 9 months ago

People who sit on their rear sides and don't use the facility are the first to protest. I think it's awesome they are building this. Great place for the kids to go and play. Hopefully it's not full every single day of the week with Volleyball and Scheduled events like the others are.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 9 months ago

How can you possibly know how great it is given that we know absolutely nothing about it yet?

doc1 5 years, 9 months ago

They should tear down that hideous trailer park next to Best Buy and put it there.

doc1 5 years, 9 months ago

They should tear down that hideous trailer park next to Best Buy and put it there.

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