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Archive for Friday, March 30, 2012

Town Talk: $13 million likely city contribution to proposed youth fieldhouse/rec center, incoming mayor says; couple of sites under review for possible BMX track in Lawrence

March 30, 2012

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News and notes from around town:

• More details are emerging about a possible youth fieldhouse/recreation center that would be built in northwest Lawrence. And the details are emerging from the man who likely will be in charge of the city process for the next year.

City Commissioner Bob Schumm is scheduled to be installed as mayor at Tuesday evening’s City Commission meeting. Schumm was the top vote-winner in the last city commission election, and tradition says he’s in line to be the next mayor.

I chatted with Schumm about his mayoral agenda, and you can read that article this weekend. But he also shared more details than have been available thus far about the proposed youth fieldhouse project, which would be built through a public-private partnership on property at the northwest corner of Sixth Street and the South Lawrence Trafficway. Here’s a look:

— About $13 million is a good bet for how much money the city will put into this project, Schumm said. How much money developers — which include Steve and Duane Schwada and members of the Gene Fritzel Construction company — will put into the project remains less clear. The $13 million amount is about how much the city thinks it can pay without raising taxes. City leaders are hoping to use money that will become available after the debt for several sales tax-financed projects — such as the indoor pool and the community health building — are retired in the next year or so.

— The current working idea, Schumm said, is a development group — probably led by Thomas Fritzel — would own the fieldhouse/recreation center. The private group would take care of the maintenance, security, utilities and other such functions that come with owning a building. The city would pay a lease payment (that’s included in the $13 million) to the private group, which would entitle the city to use the facility for parks and recreation classes, leagues and other functions that normally take place in a recreation center. City employees of the Parks and Recreation Department likely would staff the facility.

— After 20 years of lease payments, the city would own the building, Schumm said. The city would own the ground that the building sits on from the very beginning.

— Schumm hopes to have the building up and going by early 2013, which means this project has a ticket on the City Hall Express. That train has sometimes been subject to delays, so we’ll see what the future holds.

What’s clear, though, is Schumm is excited about this project and its potential to attract major youth sporting tournaments and other events to the city. When the city was talking about building a traditional recreation center near Sixth and Wakarusa, Schumm didn’t seem to have quite the same enthusiasm. He certainly was open to the idea, but he also was among the group that questioned whether now was the right time for such an endeavor.

But this expanded project, Schumm said, has such a strong economic development component that it demands the city’s attention. He said the numbers city commissioners are being given is that many of these youth tournaments bring 2.5 visitors for every player who participates in the event. Many of these tournaments have 50 or more teams.

“This is a big, big opportunity for us,” Schumm said. “I think it really will put Lawrence on the map as an exciting place to visit from all over the Midwest. We’re going to get a lot of recognition out of it, and it will identify us as a first-class city.”

• From basketball to bikes. If you remember quite awhile ago, we reported there is a group interested in building a BMX bicycle track in Lawrence. You know, one of those places with the big jumps and the other sorts of things that keep insurance executives awake at night. Well, that idea is still alive, and actually city staff members are spending some time trying to figure out where such a facility could be located.

Parks and Recreation leaders told me they currently are looking at two pieces of city property that could house a BMX track.

— A five-acre site near the city’s popular off-leash dog park below the Clinton Lake Dam. Or if you are familiar with where the small parking lot for Sesquicentennial Point is, the site is right across the road from that. I believe the site used to be part of the outlet camping ground area.

— A five-acre site near East 1700 and North 1300 roads. That is property that currently is ag land and is quite a bit southeast of 23rd Street and Franklin Road. But the city owns the property because it has a utility pump station on the property. Eventually, the area will be a high-profile location, if the east leg of the South Lawrence Trafficway is completed. The area — which also includes vacant ground owned by the school district — would be near the route of the SLT.

Neither site is very convenient for Lawrence residents to bike to, but parks and recreation leaders said they’re not sure the facility would be appropriate for a traditional city park. The track isn’t the most attractive of things, since it involves large piles of dirt and fencing.

I’ll check in with some of the proponents of the track to find out a little bit more of what they have in mind. When I last chatted with them, they were envisioning a 1,500-foot track with outdoor lighting. At that time, they were not asking for any city funds to help with the construction or maintenance of the track. Instead, the city’s contribution would be some ground to house the facility.

Parks and Recreation leaders told me that they definitely are operating under the assumption the facility would receive no financial support from the city. The ground also would remain under the control of the city, and the BMX folks would have some sort of lease with the city to use the property.

• In the name of a busy Friday (I still have to get my Crimson and Blue face paint on) we’ll call that a wrap for this week’s Town Talk. Have a good and safe weekend.

Comments

Keith Richards 2 years, 8 months ago

Chad, I appreciate the update on the new rec facility. Do you have any additional information about what type of contributions KU plans to make to the facility?

Chad Lawhorn 2 years, 8 months ago

No. The amount of KU or private contributions made to the project are still being contemplated. Or at least I'm not aware of those numbers. Thanks, Chad

FlintlockRifle 2 years, 8 months ago

Chad, what is the track west of town on the farmers turnpike??, is it a BMX track or someething else??

5thgeneration 2 years, 8 months ago

The track on the farmer's turnpike is a cyclocross track. It is something related, though entirely different from the sport of BMX Racing.

frankfussman 2 years, 8 months ago

"I still have to get my Crimson and Blue face paint on." What about your chest?

JayhawkFan1985 2 years, 8 months ago

This is a great idea in a bad place. The new rec center plus should be located adjacent to free state high school. The HS is served by public transit. US 40 west of K10 is too far west and not likely to be served by transit for 10-20 years.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 2 years, 8 months ago

So the city gets to pay $13 million up front (spread over 20 years) for a facility that'll be twenty years old when it finally gets possession of it. What else do city taxpayers get for their investment in the meantime? And what if proper maintenance isn't performed on the facility, and the city gets stuck with a major renovation job when it does take possession?

The devil remains in the details.

repaste 2 years, 8 months ago

The donated land comes with concession to zoning for rest of land, city paid roads, etc. It is not a donation, it is a payment. No tax deduction there IRS!

deec 2 years, 8 months ago

So if the city is leasing the building, does that mean they get to keep the entrance fees,concession sales etc from all these imagined tournaments? Or do the developers conveniently get to profit while the city pays the labor costs of running the facility, which are typically the highest expense of any business? How about instead of spending another $13 million in these tight economic times, the city just reduce the property tax. If a tournament facility is such a great idea, let Fritzel spend his own money to build it. More corporate welfare.

Eugehne Normandin 2 years, 8 months ago

piles of dirt and fencing is unattractive ? so are egomaniacs on there way to 13 million dollar rec centers get bent

krazykansas1 2 years, 8 months ago

"The track isn’t the most attractive of things, since it involves large piles of dirt and fencing."

What's unattractive about sword fighting on mounds of dirt?

Zing!

Richard Heckler 2 years, 8 months ago

Chad: Private ownership while taxpayers fund staffing? Is this correct?

$13 million leasing agreement? Does this cover then entire 20 years? Or is more expected?

"What else do city taxpayers get for their investment in the meantime? "

"And what if proper maintenance isn't performed on the facility, and the city gets stuck with a major renovation job when it does take possession?" How are taxpayers protected? Will the owners provide insurance for such?

Chad: "But this expanded project, Schumm said, has such a strong economic development component that it demands the city’s attention. He said the numbers city commissioners are being given is that many of these youth tournaments bring 2.5 visitors for every player who participates in the event. Many of these tournaments have 50 or more teams. "

That only works if the tournaments come to Lawrence,Kansas. How does Lawrence intend to steal away tournaments from JOCO/KC metro and Topeka? Taxpayers need very hard evidence not speculation. We cannot base any decisions pretending there is not "stiiff competition" in this market as we speak.

How can we forget that some of the same names are involved that actually believed that Lawrence developers could steal shoppers away from JOCO/KC metro and Topeka retail markets.

Is this more pork barrel for the local real estate industry?

ako 2 years, 8 months ago

what is the proposed rec center going to have in it? as in what kind of tournaments are they trying to attract? Is it all going to be indoor, or are there outdoor fields and tracks included in the plan? Who is the architect that is planning this? I also think this property is too far out of town for people to use it much. The property across from Walmart would get much more use.

windjammer 2 years, 8 months ago

The perfect place for a bmx track is at 12th and Haskell. There is already a fence there and huge piles to jump over. Buy Bo out and " Lets go racing boys". I will be the first to donate. Oh I forgot I already have. It is time to get these young men a place to race their bikes. No noise or pollution just great fun for these young men.

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