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.