This evening’s Lawrence City Commission meeting is likely to provide the extra push that eventually will result in building the Rock Chalk Recreation Center.
Seldom, if ever, has a project of this size and cost moved so quickly through city offices. And seldom, if ever, has such a use of taxpayer dollars been approved so quickly without being approved by a vote of the city’s taxpayers.
The fact is, this, in a way, is a “perfect storm” situation in that the combination of those directly involved in the project, the timing of the effort and the potential benefits of the scheme all merge to create a situation that causes many individuals to refrain from asking a lot of questions.
There are several highly respected individuals involved and, consequently, residents are hesitant to ask questions or voice their concerns. It would be almost treasonous to question or oppose the wishes or motives of those involved.
The Kansas University Endowment Association enjoys an excellent record, but has it established a new policy that allows a generous individual who makes a substantial gift for a new KU building to also determine whom he or she wants to be the contractor and builder for the structure without a competitive bidding process?
It is questionable whether the majority of KU alumni and friends actually think the fact that KU is one of the last remaining BCS schools with a running track around its football field and lacks better softball and soccer fields is an “embarrassment to KU alumni and student-athletes, past and present,” as KU Athletic Director Sheahon Zenger wrote in a recent letter to the city.
There are other questions, but, again, raising objections or calling for more transparency on how this deal was put together is not the popular thing to do. The cost, the location, the impact on downtown Lawrence (which has been so protected in recent years), whether the contractors will own and lease the facilities to KU Athletics, and whether the terms and conditions of these leases have been negotiated are just a few questions that remain unanswered. Has the KU Endowment Association entered into a new policy for the construction of badly needed facilities and buildings?
The overall project looks great and sounds great, but, just like the making of sausage, it’s the ingredients and how the ingredients are put together that makes the project tasty, attractive and a winner in the eyes of the consumer — or something far less appealing.