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Archive for Thursday, November 1, 2012

Details on proposed city/KU sports complex emerging; deal likely won’t involve standard bidding process

A map of the proposed layout of the Rock Chalk Park sports complex, proposed for about 90 acres north of the northeast intersection of Sixth Street and the South Lawrence Trafficway. Note that north on the map is to the right.

A map of the proposed layout of the Rock Chalk Park sports complex, proposed for about 90 acres north of the northeast intersection of Sixth Street and the South Lawrence Trafficway. Note that north on the map is to the right.

November 1, 2012

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Lawrence city officials are getting closer to striking a deal with Kansas University Endowment leaders on a proposed sports complex in northwest Lawrence.

But the terms of the deal, parties on both sides said Thursday, likely will involve allowing controversial Lawrence contractor Thomas Fritzel to build the city’s $25 million recreation center without going through the city’s standard bidding process.

KU Endowment’s top official confirmed his organization is in discussions with Fritzel to build both the KU portion and the city’s portion of the sports complex, which is proposed for about 100 acres north of the northeast intersection of Sixth Street and the South Lawrence Trafficway.

Dale Seuferling, president of the KU Endowment Association, said allowing the city to use a contractor that is different from the contractor for the KU facilities — which include a softball stadium and a track and field stadium — would ruin the economies of scale related to the project and would make it more likely the city and university facilities wouldn’t mesh well.

Public meeting

The city will host a public meeting to discuss details of the project from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Nov. 8 at Free State High School, 4700 Overland Drive.

“If the city feels like it has to be done in a different way, they probably would have to look for a different site,” Seuferling said.

Thus far, Mayor Bob Schumm said the city is still very interested in partnering with KU Endowment on the project. But Schumm said the lack of a formal bidding process is concerning.

“Would I prefer to have the city run an official bona fide bid process? Yes, I would,” Schumm said. “But we don’t currently own the land, and this is a condition KU Endowment has put forward.”

The process is further complicated by the fact the city currently is involved in a dispute with Fritzel. The city is trying to figure out a way to force Fritzel to pay some sort of restitution related to the Varsity House project at 11th and Indiana streets in the Oread Neighborhood.

The city contends Fritzel did not hold up his end of an agreement to properly move the old Varsity House in order to make way for a new apartment complex. Fritzel disagrees with the city’s assessment, and the matter remains unresolved.

“Obviously, I wish the Varsity House was playing out in a better fashion,” Schumm said. “It does cause us to take concern about the outcome of this much larger facility.”

But Schumm said the city will take precautions to ensure the city is getting a good deal. He said the city will instruct architects to write the specifications of the facility “very, very tightly.” He also said a construction manager would be hired by the city to report back on activities taking place on the site. Before construction begins on the project, at least one outside contractor would be paid to provide the city an independent cost estimate for the project.

“That is not a perfect process,” Schumm said of receiving a mock bid on the work, “but it will provide us information that we think will be useful.”

At the moment, Schumm said the city believes it is poised to get a “true value” on the project. Several new details of the proposed deal between the city and KU Endowment have been released. They include:

• The city’s total cost for the project would be capped at $25 million. The $25 million cost would pay for all construction and design fees for a 181,000 square-foot recreation center/youth fieldhouse, eight lighted tennis courts, five miles of walking trails, landscaping, onsite utilities and interior roads to serve the site.

• The city has a preliminary report that estimates that for its $25 million payment the city will receive facilities that have a market value of about $33.5 million.

• Once the city makes its one-time $25 million payment to KU Endowment, the city will own both the structures and the real estate related to the recreation center, the tennis courts and the walking trails. KU would continue to own the property associated with its track and field stadium, softball stadium and soccer field.

• The approximately 1,400 to 1,500 parking spaces on the property would be owned by KU Endowment, but the city would have use of the spaces. Since KU would not use the sports complex often during the winter season, KU Endowment is proposing the city be responsible for snow removal and would set aside an annual amount for parking lot and street maintenance.

• Kansas Athletics would purchase water from the city for restrooms, locker rooms, concession stands and irrigation of athletic fields. But the city would provide water for general landscaping of the complex free of charge. KU, however, would maintain the lawns and landscaping of the property around the city’s recreation center and tennis courts at no charge.

The city will host a public meeting to discuss details of the project from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Nov. 8 at Free State High School, 4700 Overland Drive.

Schumm said the City Commission may begin reviewing specific contracts to move the project forward at its Nov. 13 meeting.

Commissioners said they will be looking forward to hearing more comments from the public, particularly about whether community members are on board with trying to build a recreation complex that serves a regional area.

“We really need to figure out how the public wishes to invest in recreation facilities,” City Commissioner Mike Amyx said. “There is still a lot of discussion I hear on a daily basis that questions what it is we’re trying to accomplish with the bigger facility.”

Comments

David Holroyd 2 years, 1 month ago

Schumm would do the public a favor by being honest why the taxpayers get stuck with footing the bill down the road for the new rec center? If KUEA wants to own the land and build it, with donations, then why doesn't KUEA run the thing and give back to the community?

As for the Varsity House, the writer of this article needs to not be so lazy and get the correspondence from the city to Fritzel and print it, and on will figure out that Fritzel owes no money. Schumm and Amyx should have kept quiet and referred any questions to The City Manager and he in turn to the City Legal Dept.

That's how good politiicians work. These two, Schumm and Amyx are making themselves look very unprofessional. Flapping their lips all of the time about the Varsity House. The fact is, not more than a handful of people even care about the thing.

Fritzel is the" new "BA Green for KU, so get used to it.

ohjayhawk 2 years, 1 month ago

I believe that the major obstacle to KUEA running the rec center is that it would preclude its use for basketball and other types of amateur tournaments. The NCAA does not allow any AAU, or similar types, of tournaments to be held in buildings associated with a university in any way. Because those types of functions appear to be their biggest hope in making the thing successful, I doubt they would want to jeopardize that by not being able to host them.

msezdsit 2 years, 1 month ago

If you thought this whole rec center fiasco had some kind of odor about it, this probably won't change your mind.

Keith 2 years, 1 month ago

“We really need to figure out how the public wishes to invest in recreation facilities,” City Commissioner Mike Amyx said. “There is still a lot of discussion I hear on a daily basis that questions what it is we’re trying to accomplish with the bigger facility.”

Thank you Mike.

Richard Heckler 2 years, 1 month ago

Lawrence,Kansas taxpayers do not need this facility! Simple as that.

Politicians are like used car sales people sometimes. Lawrence,Kansas does not need this facility.

Worried about the health of taxpayers? Want to attract new business to Lawrence? For 25 million dollars Lawrence,Kansas could become one of the most walkable/safe bicycling communities in America . And it would add market value to all other neighborhoods instead only the westside of town. Let's share the wealth and quit making the west side the sole focus of OUR millions of tax dollars. Let's show some wisdom and fiscal responsibility.

Build an $8 million neighborhood rec center on the property that taxpayers own as we speak. Spend the other $17 million on the walkable Lawrence Community meaning all other sides of town.

--- Connect the river levy to the burroughs walk and bike trail.

--- Add lighting to known heavy pedestrian traffic = potentially reducing rape crimes

connects the entire city = the best bang for the tax buck.

Lawrence,Kansas.

It seems that so much tax dollar focus on the westside is saying that our city government is trying to quietly develop a real live "slum neighborhood" district. This is reckless economics.

Lawrence,Kansas taxpayers do not need this extravagant facility that will come with a $350,000 or more annual operating budget! Simple as that. $350,000 will provide tons of low maintenance miles for safer walking and biking.

irvan moore 2 years, 1 month ago

merrill, please do not insult used car salepersons by compaing them with politicians

notajayhawk 2 years, 1 month ago

So, just to be clear: It's NOT okay for ALL the taxpayers to be paying for improvements that only benefit SOME people (i.e. the sports complex and other development on the west side), but it IS okay for ALL the taxpayers to be paying for improvements that only benefit SOME people (i.e., bike paths and walking trails) - provided the great merrill is one of them. Great.

gccs14r 2 years, 1 month ago

Let KUEA build its facility and Lawrence can think about building a rec center after everything else is paid for and the streets are in good condition.

At this point I'm ready to use non-Lawrence contractors for everything not handled by City staff, until local contractors quit trying to screw us.

Joe Hyde 2 years, 1 month ago

If KU owns the land on which this project would be built, if KU officials and the Board of Regents believe that spending state tax money on it is justiified, and if the project is viewed by state officials as being so necessary to the public welfare that it must be fast-tracked by abandoning conventional competitive bidding...then let KU build the thing on their nickel.

I have a hunch the City of Lawrence might soon want that $25 million in "seed money" spent on more important projects that directly benefit the entire populace; for instance, paying for basic infrastructure maintenance once our local property taxes get forced higher due to the sweeping state tax cuts recently passed into law by Kansas Republican conservatives.

ohjayhawk 2 years, 1 month ago

KU Endowment owns the land and paying for the project, not KU. KU Endowment is an independent organization that does not get their money from tax money, but from gifts and donations. It is not a government entity. Because of this, it is not subject to the bid process that governmental agencies/entities are, and no tax monies will be used on this project.

Joe Hyde 2 years, 1 month ago

Thanks for the clarification re: KU Endowment vs. KU state funds, ohjayhawk. Still, I believe it is inaccurate to say, as you do, that "no tax monies will be used on this project". Were that the case, KU Endowment would not be seeking $25 million worth of Lawrence citizen's money (collected through taxation) to "partner" in the construction.

If KU Endowment wants the project built for the purpose of boosting the University's sports activity profile, hey, that's cool. Their contributors can acquire said boost by paying for it themselves.

irvan moore 2 years, 1 month ago

you notice they want to fast track everything about this project, gotta get all the approval while this city commission is sitting, like jack says, worst city commission ever

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 2 years, 1 month ago

The city should reject this project on principle alone-- public policy and expenditures shouldn't be dictated by KU Endowment and KU Athletics, much less Fritzel Construction.

Anthony Mall 2 years, 1 month ago

Let me guess.. Werner will be the architect, Fritzel gets construction and once again the city allows the same 5-7 people to get all the money!!! When will people wake up and see how corrupt the city of Lawrence is???

Pepe 2 years, 1 month ago

LOL at the idea that in return for the $25 million investment the city will instantly have facilities worth $33 million. An investment is only worth what it can be sold for on the open market and no private entity is going to buy a facility like this.

This whole thing reeks. If KU wants to build this, them let them pay for it. The idea of a no-bid process should be a major red flag. What is the possible downside to opening this project up to bids? I don't see any downside and a lot of potential upside.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 2 years, 1 month ago

"An investment is only worth what it can be sold for on the open market and no private entity is going to buy a facility like this."

I had exactly that same reaction to this bit of BS boosterism.

randomthoughts 2 years, 1 month ago

I want to know what's REALLY going on here! Dirty, dirty, dirty...

Carol Bowen 2 years, 1 month ago

You'd think the commission would at least want to appear on the up and up.

lawrencereporter 2 years, 1 month ago

“If the city feels like it has to be done in a different way, they probably would have to look for a different site,” Seuferling said.

Dale, you are a double talker just like Thomas Fritzel. You- KU Endowment and Sheahon Zenger - KU Athletics wrote letters inviting the City to join you on this site, now if they don't bend over far enough for your pet builder you are comfortable telling them to take a hike.

I read in this paper the land KU says they are interested in buying is not yet annexed or zoned, it also needs $13-14 million dollars of infrastructure, ie: roads, parking, walk/jog paths, landscaping, and utility's built that KU wants the City taxpayers to pay for.

Is it in your best interest to treat to taxpayers this way, with the Dale Seuferling "take it or leave it" approach. That might work up on the hill inside your elitist group, but not with the rest of us. This is not a private project or tool to payback one loyal donor or his family.

The recreation center is for the citizens of Lawrence, parks and recreation programs for kids and adults, and tournaments that will bring people to Lawrence. The taxpayers of Lawrence are paying for this facility not the University of Kansas, KU Endowment or KU Athletics so your rules don't apply.

scaramouchepart2 2 years, 1 month ago

I am glad that someone finally noticed the city is falling apart. Another article. We cannot afford to spend, spend, spend on developers. We need to spend our tax dollars on things that support the community. Infrastructure for one. 25 million up front, replaces a lot of infrastructure or jobs lost at city hall like code enforcement.

Trumbull 2 years, 1 month ago

25m would go some way toward improving our streets. And by that, I mean concrete. Not this asphalt stuff that they tear up and replace every two years. Concrete can last 100+ years. Why do we continually throw away money in this fashion? Concrete should be phased in.

Regarding the bid process. If they do not have a bid process, then they should compensate by having an independent auditor review the contract and sign off on it. This will be a needed control measure that should compensate for the lack of competitive bids.

puddleglum 2 years, 1 month ago

let KU and Fritzel build and maintain this circus. City of Lawrence should have nothing to do with it. Thanks, Mike for thinking of us. No bid process? what is this, a monarchy? I realize that the endowment is private and can hire whomever they chose, but the city should therefore cease to have anything to do with it. Even if there were a proper bid process, I don't think a majority of taxpayers support this project. send it to the ballot.

April Fleming 2 years, 1 month ago

Why is the city involved in this? Why is it all the way out there?

johnwoods 2 years, 1 month ago

The city needs to run from Fritzel and the KU Athletics Department! Do not partner with either of them or you'll be sorry, or rather, the citizens of Lawrence will.

Richard Heckler 2 years, 1 month ago

Put this matter before the voters aka taxpayers.

Give us a choice!

--- Extravagant Field House in the sticks.

--- Develop new miles of low cost Safe Walkable/Cycling Community for our children throughout Lawrence,Kansas which is attractive to new business and increases the market value of all residential. Very low maintenance = tax dollars saved.

--- Help Finance USD 497 Elementary Rehab Project.

--- Build an $8 million northwest rec center

--- None of the above.

lawrencereporter 2 years, 1 month ago

In recent weeks the City jumped from a site that was going to donated to the City which put the City in complete control of their future The City then would lease some of ground to KU for this same sports complex we see today. Why is the City taking back seat, taking orders, and doing what Thomas Fritzel tells them to do. Is this project farther along then they would lead us to believe, have deals been made in advance of the public process. Why is Schumm covering for Fritzel, have promises been made. How can city commissioners be talking about reviewing contracts between the City, Thomas Fritzel, and KU before the public, planning commission or city commission have seen or heard anything about this project publicly. A twenty minute site plan and a couple letters from KU Endowment do not make this a done deal, unless its already a done deal and the City did it behind closed door.

brutus 2 years, 1 month ago

The city uses School District gyms all over in the neighborhoods for free. Now they want to build a rec center on the edge of town. Are they going to pay for this by charging the kids more?

victor_lustig 2 years, 1 month ago

Chad... Details?

City's rec center and Rock Caulk Park layout in the JW is different then the building and site on the city's web page that accompanies a convoluted estimate....

It's gonna be very confusing for anyone instructed to manufacture a "MOCK" estimate to cover Schumm, Corliss et al guesses without plans and specifications.

Chad you're only scratching the surface of this mess... Hopefully your bosses will now instruct you to report all the details... not limited to what you get from a couple of selected sources.

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