At tonight’s meeting, Lawrence city commissioners are scheduled to consider the first formal action on a proposed super-large recreation complex at the northeast corner of the intersection of Sixth Street and the South Lawrence Trafficway.
The site, approximately 150 acres, is to be annexed into the city and given the appropriate zoning to accommodate various athletic and commercial activities. The project is on a fast-track schedule even though there are many aspects of the development that deserve public scrutiny, perhaps before the acreage is taken into the city and assigned specific zoning.
For example, what will be the cost of extending city services to the city, and who will pay these costs: the city, the developers or the users? Then there’s the matter of who will be in charge of the proposed development and facilities: the public, city recreation officials, university athletic department officials or coaches, the developer or one or two large athletic companies such as Nike or Adidas?
One of the features of the proposed recreation center is an outdoor running track. It is reported one of the parties pushing for the development claimed he could deliver the Kansas University track, now in Memorial Stadium to the development. Another individual associated with the track has proposed an AAU track.
What’s the difference and why should it matter? The big question is who could use the track. KU does not allow the general public to use its track. Would it change policies and allow the public to use its track if it is part of the northwest development? It is believed an AAU track would be open for the public’s use. Which would Lawrence residents prefer?
Another major question is who would control and schedule events at the center. The major feature of the development is said to be a massive indoor arena that could house eight or more full-sized basketball courts. Who has dibs on using these courts, and who will pay for their use?
It would seem these and many other matters should be discussed by city and university officials, maybe even county officials, before the project is set in motion and taxpayers are asked to pay the bills.
A first-class, world-class recreation development would be a tremendous asset for Lawrence, KU and a large area of northeast Kansas. It could be a winner in every respect.
However, the cozy relationship of the developers, university officials and City Hall people and the almost-record pace with which this project is being packaged and advanced, raises the question of whether an expensive and fully loaded cart is being approved before the horse (the public and its tax dollars) is in place and ready to deliver the goods.