Archive for Sunday, March 11, 2012

Recreation opportunity

Many details remain to be worked out, but it’s nice to see plans moving forward for a major new recreation facility in Lawrence.

March 11, 2012


Emerging plans to build a major recreation facility in northwest Lawrence present some exciting possibilities for the city.

After several years of discussion about the city building a new recreation center near Free State High School, a group of public and private entities now have shifted the planning focus to a much larger project further west, at the northwest corner of the Sixth Street intersection with the South Lawrence Trafficway. The statement released last week came from the city of Lawrence and Bill and Cindy Self’s Assists Foundation, but Kansas University also reportedly is interested in locating facilities, perhaps outdoor track and field venues, at the same location. A couple of local developers, including one group that may donate land for the project, also have been involved in the planning.

No plans or cost estimates have been released, but city officials say the facility probably would include multiple basketball courts, a large arena, an indoor elevated track, an indoor turf field, a health and wellness center, a fitness facility and other amenities including concessions and walking trails. The hope is that the new center not only would provide many recreation opportunities for local residents but also could be used to attract tournaments and major youth sporting events to the community. Such events would be a major economic boon for the city.

It sounds like a fabulous project, but it will present some significant challenges. The fact that the Self foundation, KU and private developers are interested in partnering with the city on this project gives the recreation center an entirely new dimension. It will be important to carefully delineate what each group’s expectations are for the design and use of the building and grounds.

Whoever — the city or a private entity — is charged with scheduling and managing the facilities will have to balance a number of interests. For instance, if city taxpayers are going to be asked to contribute money that would otherwise have been used to construct another city recreation center, they should be assured that the larger facility will provide the same community services, including such things as class and meeting space and open gym time for youngsters. The partners also will have to establish priorities for use of the facility for camps, tournaments and other events.

Bringing several public and private interests to develop this project is an interesting challenge, but certainly a worthwhile effort that could provide many economic and recreational benefits for Lawrence. It will take some time to get it right, but it’s great to see this project finally moving forward.


cato_the_elder 6 years, 2 months ago

So now we're looking at yet another major public project located in the most affluent part of the community, undoubtedly designed to enhance the business fortunes of those businesses and landowners closest to it, whether part of the land is donated or not.

Coach Self ought to think that over one more time.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 6 years, 2 months ago

When not coaching basketball, who do you think Self hangs out with?

cato_the_elder 6 years, 2 months ago

Point well taken, but one would hope that on an issue like this one Coach Self would be a man of independent thought. For example, most of whatever wealth he's accumulated has ultimately come from public sources, which should make him more sensitive to the implications surrounding where this project is to be located.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 6 years, 2 months ago

I expect that Self will be pulled in a couple of different directions on this.

On the one hand, his close circle of non-basketball fans probably has more than just a couple of the wealthy developers that are behind this proposal. While they may view this as their "gift" to the city, these people didn't become wealthy by not looking after their own self-interest, even when ostensibly doing something "charitable."

On the other hand, the kids he recruits to his team generally don't come from well-to-do backgrounds. To get the attention of major colleges, they had to make it through the youth leagues and AAU summer leagues and tournaments that funnel players to the NCAA and the NBA. And I expect that that's who he sees as primary users of this facility.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 6 years, 2 months ago

" his close circle of non-basketball fans "

That should have been friends, not fans.

JayhawkFan1985 6 years, 2 months ago

I like the idea of building a rec center adjacent to Free State High School and Lawrence Indoor Aquatic Center. This is an area currently served by transit and thus accessible to everyone in town. FSHS/LIAC. is the western most stop on the transit routes so this proposed location would NOT be accessible to everyone in town. Plus the city already owns land by the LIAC.

The proposed location at the NW corner of K-10 and US-40 also would not be readily accessible by walking or biking. Thus, people will have to drive to a place where they can run laps around a track. That seems stupid just like putting the soccer and baseball fields south of K-10 at Wakarusa.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 6 years, 2 months ago

It's unlikely that the proposed location of this "rec center" is just an offering of surplus property. More likely, it's to provide the catalyst (and a partially publicly financed one, at that) for the development of nearby property owned by the prospective developers of this facility. I imagine that plans for any property near Free State don't include donation for quasi-public purposes.

That's not to say that this can't be a worthwhile project. But just as the developers are in it (at least partially) for their own interests, so should the city commission on behalf of taxpayers.

jhawkinsf 6 years, 2 months ago

I'd guess that whatever the costs to taxpayers will be offset by reduced need for healthcare services. As a whole, we are out of shape, overweight and have a terrible diet. I'd vote for a dozen Rec. centers if we could only mandate that everyone use them.

repaste 6 years, 2 months ago

This center will be used for B-Ball tourneys, etc, not much for working folk. The question is if Lawrence City broke the law by giving any zoning variances to the donor in exchange for the land, which is clearly prohibited.

lily 6 years, 2 months ago

Other rec centers have reduced staff and hours as mentioned. They are worn down. If they want to target those kids who come from more challenging backgrounds, they sure are putting it in the wrong place. It would be a longer drive from where most live if they had a car. I agree it's more for tournaments and the like. Who is going to be responsible for the maintenance? Is it really supposed to support itself?

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