Archive for Thursday, November 8, 2012

Town Talk: More recreation center talk in advance of tonight’s forum

November 8, 2012


• If you have some questions about the city’s proposed regional recreation center in northwest Lawrence, a forum from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. this evening at Lawrence Free State High is the place you ought to be. The forum will be an open house style of event where you can go up to one of several stations and just start asking questions, rather than having to get in front of a large crowd and speak into a microphone.

An article on the LJWorld site today details how the cost of the project have risen over the last year, and also how the project has grown in scope. Many city officials believe the $25 million project has much more potential now to attract regional and national youth tournaments and sporting events than it did when it was proposed as a much smaller project a year ago.

That really will probably be the key question — and also the toughest question to answer — with this project. How many youth basketball and volleyball tournaments can this proposed center attract? And how much economic impact will those tournaments produce for the community? Every deal of significance has risk, and I think most would agree that this is the part of the deal that contains the most risk for the city. What is the true market for these youth tournaments?

The city hired a consultant to study the economic impacts of such a facility, and it determined the center would inject about $6.3 million a year worth of spending into the Lawrence economy. The report projects the facility will host about 34 tournaments a year and about 25 ticketed events a year, such as KU soccer and track and field events. (This study was done before a KU softball stadium was added to the project.)

The authors of the report certainly talked to many potential users, but it is a little difficult to understand how the consultants came up with the projections they did. But it also is important to remember what type of report this was. In the grand scheme of things, it was a pretty quick report on the subject. The authors of the report warn city officials of that with the statement that “because procedures were limited, we express no opinion or assurances of any kind on the achievability of any projected information contained herein and this report should not be relied upon for that purpose.”

In terms of other questions about the project, I still hear inquiries from folks wanting to know more detailed information about the cost of the project. Here is a breakdown of what city officials currently think the cost of the project will be:

— 181,000-square-foot indoor recreation center/fieldhouse: $19.3 million.

— Lighted outdoor tennis courts: $640,000.

— Infrastructure, such as roads and utilities: $6.8 million.

— Recreational paths: $1.2 million.

— 1,400 paved parking spaces: $5.6 million.

If you add that all up, it totals $33.5 million. The city, however, believes it has negotiated a deal with KU Endowment to cap the city’s cost at $25 million (plus the interest the city would accrue on the bonds to finance the project). In other words, the city believes it will get $33.5 million worth of facilities for $25 million. That is why even though this project has taken many odd twists and turns that commissioners have stayed committed to it. The city believes it has a chance to get a real value.

City leaders have told me that now it is time for all of you to start saying what you believe. Tonight’s public forum and Tuesday night’s City Commission meeting are likely going to be important times to make comments on this project. If the hope is to start construction on this sports complex by spring, the city will have to start making some commitments pretty soon.

• Speaking of questions, there a nasty rumor that took hold on Twitter Wednesday that Milton's, the popular breakfast spot/coffee house at 920 Massachusetts St. had closed. I don't have any information on the genesis of that talk, but I would tell you that Milton's was open this morning.

I've got a call into owner David Lewis to see if he can shed any light on how such a rumor got started, and if there is anything new at the restaurant. If I get more information, I'll let you know.


hipper_than_hip 5 years, 6 months ago

Isn't Milton's moving to Ninth & New Hampshire?

Chad Lawhorn 5 years, 6 months ago

As we've reported, David Lewis, an owner of Milton's is a partner in a new restaurant that will locate in the ground floor of the 901 building. But when I interviewed the other partners involved in that business about a month ago, they were clear that the business was not to be a replacement for Milton's. Here's that article:

Eddie_Haskell 5 years, 6 months ago

No. They're building the new World Trade Center at 9th and New Hampshire. It's the new Center of the World.

Eddie_Haskell 5 years, 6 months ago

Spoiler alert: The NYSE will soon be located at the top of the new building on the NE corner of 9th and New Hampshire.

irvan moore 5 years, 6 months ago

the city believes it has negotiated a deal, isn't that how the taxpayers keep getting screwed by this city commission

pizzapete 5 years, 6 months ago

And the consultants are telling us that “because procedures were limited, we express no opinion or assurances of any kind on the achievability of any projected information contained herein and this report should not be relied upon for that purpose.”

pizzapete 5 years, 6 months ago

What's the worst case scenario here? How much is this huge facility going to cost the city to operate if we don't bring in all these projected tournaments?

lawrencereporter 5 years, 6 months ago

The city, however, believes it has negotiated a deal with KU Endowment.

Chad, when did the City negotiate this deal? In public or in private. Do you have a copy of this agreement? If KU Endowment really negotiated a deal with the City then who at KU can tell us about the deal.

First Schumm tried covering for Fritzel, didn't work, then Sheahon Zenger at KU Athletics covered for Fritzel, could handle it, he dumped it on KU Endowment. It's a hot potato being dumped on the City.

Another scandal brewing.

Chad Lawhorn 5 years, 6 months ago

The deal isn't in written form yet. On Tuesday, city commissioners are anticipated to direct staff members to begin crafting a formal agreement that will be brought back to the commission for approval. At that point, the city will be making a commitment to the project. Thanks, Chad

lawrencereporter 5 years, 6 months ago

Chad, how can the City start writing a contract before they have discussed the project fully publicly. The City commission won't even have before them publicly the annexation and zoning issues until a meeting in December. The taxpayer won't have seen more then a couple sheets of left handed floor plans that seem to change daily. Chad I bet if you keep digging you will find that it's a mess, politicians are acting on their own and don't have the public's best interest in mind.

Lathrup 5 years, 6 months ago

OK, we have the Riverfront Mall, the shopping area at N. 2nd and I-70, now anchored by the DMV, and now they want a 33 million bucks sports comples to compete with one right down the road that's in a prime shopping, hotel and amusment area. Sure, why not. Oh, infrastructure, I forgot. Millions on white elephants, not a penney for maintenance. Good plan.

pizzapete 5 years, 6 months ago

You're right Lathrup, the future of these major tournaments is in the hands of large metropolitan areas such as Kansas City, Indianapolis, and Dallas that have all the necessary infrastructure in place to lure a modern sports tournament. Lawrence will be unable to compete directly with these cities because we don't have the airports, entertainment districts, hotels, etc. that are the prerequisites tournament organizers are going to be looking for when deciding where to stage their events. Who's going to want to fly in from Indianapolis to KC, rent a car, drive 40 miles, only to end up at an isolated location on the edge of a medium sized city with no major concert venues, no major sports teams, and few other options for entertainment? Lets face facts, Lawrence is a mid size town now and will be a mid size town 20 years from now. We as a community need to stop dreaming of becoming something that we are not and instead we should enjoy and celebrate what we are and what we already have.

Bob Forer 5 years, 6 months ago

'we should enjoy and celebrate what we are and what we already have.'

Absolutely!!! Perfectly put!! I think Lawrence is just fine as it is.

victor_lustig 5 years, 6 months ago

All the info used regarding costs are from articles in the LJW.

Thomas Fritzel is setting this all up to make millions in profit from the City taxpayers.

On the west of SLT project he promoted a month ago, Fritzel was willing to build the recreation center building, 181,000SF for approximately 16 million dollars. Back then (one month ago) Fritzel was offering to lease the recreation center to the City for 24 million dollars for twenty years, 1.2 million a year. The 24 million dollars including his financing (interest) costs of approximately 8 million dollars, that left 16 million to build the building, parking, etc.

Now Fritzel wants 25 million dollars for the same building but paid at completion. Different deal now, but not a better deal for the City, its much, much worse.

The City will now be financing the principal payment to Fritzel of 25 million, with todays interest the City will be on the hook for better then 35 million dollars, (25 million principal - 10 million interest) over time for same building, 181,000SF

SO! why the big difference. KU Endowment is covering for Fritzel's involvement in the project. Insisting that Fritzel be the only builder for the recreation center the City will own and maintain. KU Endowment writes in a letter they are buying and will own the property. Will KU Endowment alway own the property or will they flip it to Fritzel after all approvals from the City are granted and deals made.

This project is really being rushed along, the project information has been limited and tightly held from the public. The public will have only a few minutes to learn about this project and even less to be heard. Schumm is fast with gavel and short tempered when he's questioned. Schumm is not the best suited for this type of public project. Lets slow it down, not make any decisions until after the next election in April, clear minds make better decisions.

Right now there's five body's on the commission sharing one mind, Schumm's.

kansasredlegs 5 years, 6 months ago

52 weeks in a year, 34 planned tournaments equals 18 weekends for local taxpayers use. Sure is one heck of a deal for those paying the freight, uh Mayor Schump? So, just when the heck do the locals get to use this facility?

I cannot attend tonight, but anyone opposed to this money pit needs to show up en masse and let our local leaders know that this matter should be on a ballot and not controlled by the few.

pizzapete 5 years, 6 months ago

Chad, thank you for breaking down many of the construction costs for this project, but what are the maintenance costs going to be for this facility? What's the electric bill going to be for an 180,000 square foot building, lighted tennis courts, walking paths, and parking lots? I would guess around $12,000 to $15,000 a year? Also, what's the estimated cost of planting, seeding, mowing, and watering such a large area? Would $60,000 to $80,000 a year cover it? Let's not forget snow removal at another $40,000 to $50,000 a year? And then what about when the roads, sidewalks, paths, and parking lot needs to be re-sealed and re-painted in five or six years? What about the costs involved when the building needs to be re-painted and re-roofed in 20 years? How about the maintenance to the building alone on a year by year basis? Would another $100,000 be enough to pay that, too? When I add up what I believe to be very low cost projections, I imagine we'll need to have at least a $300,000 to $400,000 dollars at the very least set aside each year to pay for the maintenance alone on a facility of this size. So, if my estimates have any merit, we can expect to pay around $6,000,000 to maintain this facility over the next twenty years?

On a related note, I have a friend who works for the Lawrence parks and recreation department. He's told me that they've been overstretched lately trying to keep up with the maintenance of our existing parks this year do to the dry weather. When I saw him out on the porch at Free State last week I asked him what he thought of the proposed recreation center. He started shaking his head and told me, Pete, don't even get me started. Can't we just enjoy our beers and this nice weather without getting into politics?

victor_lustig 5 years, 6 months ago

"Many city officials believe the $25 million project has much more potential now to attract regional and national youth tournaments and sporting events than it did when it was proposed as a much smaller project a year ago."

The only difference in projects is the addition of softball by KU. Softball will be collegiate only not public. This one additional feature will not effect the recreation centers ability to attract more or better tournaments. KU already has softball, so those games already exist. City tennis courts will be rec play only not for tournaments, so those don't change anything. The rec building is the same size, KU track and soccer are the same.

So why do so many city officials believe spending more for the same will yield much more potential of regional and national youth tournaments.

The projects are still the same size, the price is now double.

Richard Heckler 5 years, 6 months ago

Taxpayers want to vote on this PLAY project. We do not trust the powers that be are making the right decision.

Taxpayers want to vote on this PLAY project. We do not trust the powers that be are making the right decision.

Lawrence,Kansas does not need more PLAY. Remember all of the over priced housing Lawrence was having no trouble unloading? WITHOUT this field house. No need for a field house.

Housing projects are slow in America and many more foreclosures are on the horizon. It's on the news.

Forget this PLAY field house. Be fiscal conservative and come up with a plan that does not require a $60 million input. Taxpayers we spent $20 million on PLAY by way of the school district.

This will be a tax dollar money hole just like field houses in most other cities. They don't pay back ever. What is the point of ADDING more to the list of taxpayer obligations?

Taxpayers want to vote on this project. We do not trust the powers that be are making the right decision.

Richard Heckler 5 years, 6 months ago

The financing is Supply Side Economics. Borrow and Spend, Borrow and Spend , Borrow and Spend. Aka Deficit Spending.

Local taxpayers have become the defacto borrowing institution then we become the defacto lending institution as we are forced to finance reckless city pork barrel projects for the real estate executives and executives of the developer industry.

The debt never goes away.

It is my speculation that the west side of Lawrence has way more rec paths and new wider sidewalks than any other side of town.

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