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Archive for Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Town Talk: Latest plans for N.W. recreation center now include ice rink, 15,000-seat track and field stadium; Schumm expresses disappointment over 9th and N.H. decision; Douglas County Bank turns 60

May 1, 2012

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News and notes from around town:

• Plans for a major recreation facility in northwest Lawrence are rapidly evolving, and it is clear they aren’t becoming any less major. In fact, they’re getting slippery. Mayor Bob Schumm said a new version of the plans that he was presented with on Monday included an indoor ice-skating rink.

An ice rink, though, is just one of many details starting to emerge. Schumm also confirmed that the current plans for the building check in at 300,000 square feet of indoor space, in addition to a 15,000-seat outdoor track and field stadium that would accommodate the Kansas Relays and other events.

None of the plans is set in stone, but the private developers — which include Thomas Fritzel, Steve Schwada, Duane Schwada and members of the Gene Fritzel Construction Company — are intent on creating a destination-style venue.

Plans still call for about eight full-size basketball courts that also could be used for volleyball and other indoor sports. But apparently, the idea of an ice rink has replaced a previous idea for an indoor arena.

I’ve been told by other sources, though, that the ice rink is the most speculative part of the proposal at this point. There have been some concerns the expenses of operating an ice rink may add unnecessary risk to the project.

So, we’ll see if that idea survives the weeks ahead. Schumm told me he hopes to have firm plans for what could be done at the site within the next 60 to 90 days. That would be about the time city commissioners would formally hear a request to rezone the site, which is at the northwest corner of Sixth Street and the South Lawrence Trafficway.

It will be interesting to see how grand the final plans ultimately are. I get the sense that participation by Kansas University will go a long way in determining just how large the project will be. KU Athletics long has had a vision of creating a “village” for many of its Olympic sports programs.

The current plans would get the ball rolling on that idea. In addition to the 15,000-seat track and field venue, the plans include a new outdoor soccer venue as well.

Schumm said, from his standpoint, the city’s philosophy on the financial aspects of the project hasn’t changed. He still believes the city will be able to cover its share of the project by using money from the previously approved county-wide 1 percent sales tax. Voters approved that sales tax, in part, to fund recreation projects. The city is paying off several bonds which will free up about $13 million to $15 million worth of new debt capacity for the city.

But Schumm said he believes the city will consider forgoing issuing new debt on the project. He said discussions have included the private developers financing the project, with both the city and KU making lease payments. At the end of a 20- to 25-year period, however, the city would fully own the project. The city will insist that it own the actual real estate from the very beginning of the deal.

The project is shaping up to be one of the more substantial public-private partnerships in recent memory. At some point, the details will have to start firming up. Until then, the wife and I will start ironing our old figure skating outfits. She insists, though, that she gets to throw me in the air.

• Schumm and I were both at the Downtown Lawrence Inc. annual breakfast meeting this morning. Schumm was the featured speaker, and I was the featured breakfast hog. (Yes, I did take two sweet rolls.)

During his remarks to the crowd, Schumm made a point to express some disappointment over last night’s decision by the city’s Historic Resources Commission to reject a key part of the proposed multi-story hotel/retail project at Ninth and New Hampshire.

“I was hoping when I read my paper this morning that the HRC would have approved that project, but it didn’t,” Schumm told the crowd of about 40 downtown merchants and business owners. “I hope to get something resolved on that soon.”

The HRC rejection — it approved two provisions of the plan but rejected one — doesn’t kill the project. Instead, developers can file an appeal with the City Commission. If a majority of city commissioners believe there isn’t a feasible and prudent alternative to the project, the building can move forward.

Schumm said he fully expects such an appeal to be filed, and he said he would try to process it soon.

“I would expect it to come to the City Commission in the next two or three weeks,” Schumm said.

Schumm didn’t forecast how he would vote on such an appeal, but let’s shoot straight here. Schumm and City Commissioner Mike Dever both asked the developers to present this new plan, which eliminated one story for the proposed building.

That seems to be a good indication that those two commissioners find merit in the new proposal. That would mean opponents of the project would need to win over all three of the other commissioners. No margin for error there.

But there is a very big wildcard in all of this — the legal process. When city commissioners conduct an appeal of a Historic Resources Commission decision, it is a quasi-judicial proceeding. Commissioners are supposed to make a decision based on a certain set of guidelines, many of which are spelled out in case law.

Several East Lawrence residents already have hired local attorney Ron Schneider. He’s the attorney who has successfully represented several neighbors who have been concerned about industrial zoning near the Lecompton interchange on the Kansas Turnpike.

What will city attorneys tell commissioners about their legal footing on this appeal process? Are East Lawrence residents committed to going through the expense of a lawsuit? Those may be important questions in the days ahead.

• Maybe we should all just eat cake instead. You’ll have an opportunity this afternoon (Tuesday, May 1) to stuff your purses and pockets full of cake (what, you’re not supposed to do that?) at a celebration hosted by Douglas County Bank.

The Lawrence-based bank is celebrating its 60th Anniversary with an event from 4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. at the downtown bank at Ninth and Kentucky streets. Refreshments will be served and a brief ceremony will take place at 5:30.

Douglas County Bank opened on May 1, 1952. The Ross Beach family purchased the bank in 1964, and that has been the only ownership change in the bank’s history.

Mr. Beach died in November 2010, but Douglas County Bank President Ted Haggart told me this morning that the bank’s ownership situation is as solid as ever.

“Mr. Beech is still our guiding light,” Haggard said. “The Beach family still has complete ownership of the bank, and is very committed to operating a community-oriented, independently owned bank.”

Comments

gccs14r 2 years, 7 months ago

Seems like letting the sales tax sunset would put money back in the pockets of Lawrencians and make us more competitive with surrounding communities. People would drive to Lawrence to make larger purchases if they could save 1% or more. (Too bad that doesn't work with cars.) Or keep the 1% if you must, but exempt food.

Carol Bowen 2 years, 7 months ago

There's no sunset on the 1% sales tax. It's on-going.

tomatogrower 2 years, 7 months ago

Have you ever checked your sales receipt from the Legends? You pay more in taxes there, except part of that tax is "special" and goes to pay the developers.

Betty Bartholomew 2 years, 7 months ago

Ice rink? Cool!

Seriously, though... It would be nice if there were some sort of skating rink in Lawrence again, ice or roller. Though it's been so long since I had skates on my feet that I'd probably just bust my tailbone.

Keith 2 years, 7 months ago

I see the PLAY camel has stuck its nose under the tent. Hockey rinks for everyone!

irvan moore 2 years, 7 months ago

it's not surprising that a downtown property and business owner like schumm would spearhead downtown development but it seems somewhat unethical that he doesn't recuse himself from the discussion and vote. and no, i'm not against the project, just would really like to see the process work fairly for all and end up with a win win solution.

Stephanie Harris 2 years, 7 months ago

We totally need an ice rink in Lawrence!!! So happy to see this happening!!!!

whitecho 2 years, 7 months ago

I would like to see a first-class skateboard facility become part of the west Lawrence plans. One that would get people to drive here from KC, etc & not the other way around.

chootspa 2 years, 7 months ago

If you want people to drive here from KC, you should put it on the east side of town. It takes an extra 15-20 minutes to get through town. I'm sure Topekans will love it, though.

KS 2 years, 7 months ago

Finish the by-pass. Let the pavers roll.

Scott Morgan 2 years, 7 months ago

Swing off I-70 West exit and you are there in minutes.

chootspa 2 years, 7 months ago

Only if you're driving from the speedway.

Google Maps sez both destinations take 47 minutes from KUMed (just trying for a neutral KC destination) and I-70 involves a fee. From the Plaza, taking K-10 is actually the shorter route and shaves off a minute to make it a 46 minute drive. From Overland Park, taking 1-70 adds 10 minutes.

pace 2 years, 7 months ago

I want an indoor yacht racing lap pool.

pace 2 years, 7 months ago

That would be necessary, No fun if you get chilled when you dangle your toes.

James Minor 2 years, 7 months ago

An ice rink?? Is Lawrence trying to attract an NHL team or the Ice Capades?? How about an indoor instead of an outdoor track.The KU relays is its own entity. The community and youngsters would benefit more from an indoor track than an ice rink which is more of a novelty item. How about adding an indoor golf driving range for people to improve their skills? Oh well it sounds like we should all start singing "Oh Canada Oh Canada".

kustomguy 2 years, 7 months ago

Going a bit over the top there with the NHL/Ice Capades statement. A single regulation size ice rink would probably be a boost for the Lawrence community. There are hockey leagues in Topeka that do not have consistent times to skate because of the convention center schedule. KC area has lost skating facilities in the past couple of years and all of those skaters were displaced. Not to mention KU has a club team. I bet KU could even work it out with the city for students to take credit courses in PE. School programs could be started, field trips, and Special Olympics could use the ice. There are also plenty of figure skaters in the area that would support the rink. Learn to skate programs fit in there too. Not to mention that the parents usually will go shop (spend their $) when the kids are practicing.
Only way to go with this is UP. ICE RINK - BRING IT!!!!

chootspa 2 years, 7 months ago

I agree. A full sized ice rink would be an actual destination, and not just another ball court/dance/gymanstics/whatever place.

James Minor 2 years, 7 months ago

NHL and the Ice Capades are big businesses and generate alot of revenue. Questioning the City's intent on generating income to keep the building open is not over the top!!! Topeka has conflicts and KC lost skating facilities?? Does Lawrence want to learn why this happened after investing millions of dollars????

Linda and Bill Houghton 2 years, 7 months ago

Speed skating has won more Olympic medals than any other winter sport in the U.S. Speed skating does need a 200 x 100 foot rink. So if we build a rink, it should be large enough to not only accommodate hockey, but the other indoor ice sports.

Richard Heckler 2 years, 7 months ago

Why not leave out door sports outdoors instead of expensive HVAC controlled?

Richard Heckler 2 years, 7 months ago

Who is funding the maintenance and staffing of this PLAY project?

How much will this PLAY project cost the taxpayers annually?

What they keep leaving out of this conversation is that this is more of PLAY brought forth by banker and Chamber leader Bonnie Lowe:

Bonnie Lowe - http://www2.ljworld.com/chats/2006/nov/28/bonnie_lowe/

Should a Westside rec center be approved? http://www2.ljworld.com/polls/2009/jul/should-city-build-recreation-center-west-lawrence/

Should the city spend $20 million or more on the PLAY project?( The school district has spent $20 million on PLAY - has the spending stopped?) http://www2.ljworld.com/polls/2007/may/should_city_spend_20_million_or_more_play_project/

What Kind of Rec Center do you want for Lawrence? http://www2.ljworld.com/polls/2007/apr/recreation_survey/

Priorities: http://www2.ljworld.com/news/2009/oct/22/school-priorities/#c1027186

What city government is using as the carrot is claiming this will bring tons of new revenue to Lawrence as Lawrence competes with KCMO metro and Topeka for the same dollars.

Where is the hard evidence?

There is a lot of speculation behind the scenes that will bring back the" boom town real estate scam" that produced inflation beyond reality and also shut down the USA and world economy. Costing the USA some 11 million jobs that have yet to be replaced.

Nation wide property values are still on the decline with no new nation wide major job creator on the table...... thank the GOP.

John Hamm 2 years, 7 months ago

Ah man we're Three years into BO's reign give the Bush & GOP bashing a rest. BO's had plenty of time to do something for the USA but in almost every figure we're worse off now than under the bumbling leader of George.

Richard Heckler 2 years, 7 months ago

The 9th and New Hampshire Summit is not filling up so fast and the cafe space is not coming together. Call it The Summit Overnight and bingo Lawrence has a new hotel. In fact I believe this could work. Stay for a year,a month,two weeks or simply Overnight.

This brings on some new tax revenue associated with hotels..... I love this concept.

Empty hotels are not worth much revenue wise on a daily basis.

LadyJ 2 years, 7 months ago

I would support the ice rink, but only if there was a guarantee that it would not evolve into hockey only. and give a figure skating program a chance to actually work properly

Joe Adams 2 years, 7 months ago

Setup a schedule and price the ice out and let all groups have equal access to it. I am all for my daughter learning to figure skate (since my wife won't let her play hockey) and am more than willing to share the ice time across all wants. That includes a curling league if someone wanted to setup / run it :)

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 2 years, 7 months ago

"Private / Public partnerships"

But will it really be a partnership? Or will it just be public subsidies for private development and profits?

repaste 2 years, 7 months ago

Legal definition of partnership says equal share in risk/reward. This is not a partnership, it is a subsidy, 15,000 seat would require a lot more than one entrance to K-10, must be planning a 1650 RD interchange on K-10. And to repeat, developer is receiving benefits for land donation, no tax benefit, it is not a donation but rather a trade.,

repaste 2 years, 7 months ago

How did the city do with the building they bought for 3 times the owner paid last year or so, city making in money on that?

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