Archive for Wednesday, November 14, 2012

City takes step toward committing to rec center

November 14, 2012


Tayler Tolefree, a middle blocker on Kansas University’s nationally ranked volleyball team, grew up playing the sport in Topeka.

The problem is, she told Lawrence city commissioners Tuesday night, she grew up in Lawrence.

City commissioners at their weekly meeting took their biggest step yet toward committing to a $25 million city recreation center/youth fieldhouse in northwest Lawrence after about 35 KU student-athletes and a host of other community members told stories of how the community’s indoor recreation spaces were sorely lacking.

“I really became excited when I heard about this project,” Tolefree said, “because I know it can represent the heart of sports activity in Lawrence.”

A majority of Lawrence city commissioners also agreed the project may end up representing something else: a great deal. Commissioners on a 4-1 vote directed staff members to begin crafting formal agreements to commit to building the project with the Kansas University Endowment Association.

“We know this project is going to guarantee us a world-class facility on a municipal budget,” City Commissioner Mike Dever said. “That is an opportunity I can’t turn down.”

Commissioners agreed to begin crafting agreements that would allow the project to be built on about 100 acres north of the northeast intersection of Sixth Street and the South Lawrence Trafficway. In addition to a 181,000-square-foot, eight-gym recreation center/youth fieldhouse, the project also would include KU-owned facilities for track and field, softball and soccer.

City commissioners have conducted preliminary negotiations with KU Endowment that cap the city’s cost for the project at $25 million. For that price, the city would receive the recreation center, eight lighted tennis courts, about five kilometers of multipurpose trails, and would own the building and the 20 acres of real estate that houses the city facilities.

The city is estimating its portion of the project will have a market value of about $33.5 million, even though the city would pay only $25 million for the project. KU Endowment and its donors would pick up the additional cost of the project. KU also would be responsible for paying for the KU-owned facilities that would be part of the sports complex.

The deal, though, has details unusual for a city project. KU Endowment is insisting that it build the building using its own contractor rather than allowing the city to put the recreation center construction out for bid. KU Endowment is planning to use a development group led by Lawrence builder Thomas Fritzel.

Several members of the public said the city didn’t have enough details about the arrangements between KU Endowment and various private parties to move forward with such a large project.

“I’m feeling very nervous about the enormity of this project and how much it costs,” Lawrence resident Tom Harper said. “And there are so many moving parts to that I’m a little overwhelmed by it.”

But supporters of the project outnumbered opponents on Tuesday night. About 35 female athletes from KU showed up at City Hall to show support for the project. Commissioners also heard from parents of Lawrence children who said the city had fallen far behind what other communities offer in terms of indoor recreation space.

Commissioners have been told by consultants that the 181,000-square-foot recreation center can attract regional and perhaps even national youth tournaments to the city. A report earlier this year estimated about 30 tournaments and camps a year could use the center.

But on Tuesday, commissioners sought to downplay those projections.

“I believe the economic benefits of this facility will be real, but I’m not relying on those numbers to make this decision,” City Commissioner Hugh Carter said. “I’m thoroughly convinced of the community need for this center. First and foremost, this center will serve the recreation needs of this community.”

City staff members are expected to work on crafting formal agreements for the project over the next several weeks. Those agreements will be brought back to city commissioners for review and approval.


BringBackMark 5 years, 7 months ago

Shucks, if this thing has a "market value" of $33 million, lets build it, sell it, and apply the money toward the $130 million or so we're going to see in needed repairs/upgrades to the water infrastructure over the next 20 years. The rec center would still be there for all of these poor kids that just don't have any place to play and the city would have $8 million in its pocket. What a joke, market value!

Richard Heckler 5 years, 7 months ago

Should the public taxpayers have the opportunity to vote on the $25 million Field House Project aka PLAY?

I assume that the upcoming elections will produce some concern about the taxpayers ability to be wayyyyy more involved in the spending of OUR money.

Taxpayer participation needs to be in ordinance form to protect our tax dollars. Considering an "ordinance" or some such document was passed to bypass voter approval on tax dollar projects according to city hall last night. Time to reverse that agreement as well as the document that allows city government to BAN protest documents. Local big government in action.

After all it is the taxpayers that are responsible for backing up $12 million $$$ tax dollar exemptions , the $20 million USD 497 athletic investment and a potentially $40-$50 million $$$ field house project. There will plenty of expenses once the this project is given to taxpayers.

No matter how it was presented expanding taxpayer OBLIGATIONS is a tax increase. Expect increases in water/sewer rates and other user type fees which in reality are taxes to cover the cost of this project beyond construction.

Richard Heckler 5 years, 7 months ago

"Commissioners also heard from parents of Lawrence children who said the city had fallen far behind what other communities offer in terms of indoor recreation space."

Says who? Climate controlled indoor recreation space for outdoor sports? What are we teaching our children? When I was growing up we were outdoors no matter what.

Johnson County Metro has a much larger tax base. I suggest some parents move to Johnson County metro simply because a small town tax base has never been able to keep up with a metro tax base of 2 million people. Lawrence is a tax base of about 68,000.

Do a majority of taxpayers want the city commission to spend 25 million tax $$$$ in this fashion? Apparently it is irrelevant.

I've not heard any voices against a neighborhood rec center.

Pat Kehde 5 years, 7 months ago

The back story , I hear, is that Friztel's wife's family has given lots of money to KU Endowment and that the string attached to the gift is that they give the contract for building the rec center to Thomas Friztel. If true, this deal reeks even more than we thought, but it explains KU's insistence on a "no bid" contract.

hooligan01 5 years, 7 months ago

I'm sure all of the student athletes would love new facilities. Who wouldn't, the newer the better. And how much of the tax revenue do those student athletes contribute to Lawrence, especially since they get so much for free....

pizzapete 5 years, 7 months ago

I think one of the biggest mistakes that the city is making is hiring on Fritzel and not allowing other builders, especially ones with greater experience building large recreation centers, into the bid process. What experience does Fritzel have with building thirty million dollar recreation centers? If we're really wanting a state of the art, modern, world class building, shouldn't we hire someone who has a proven track record for building such facilities? My fear is that if Fritzel builds this recreation center it will be obsolete the moment that it's finished being built. This builder has a track record for having no imagination, cutting corners, and for thumbing his nose at city codes and regulations. The city should not allow Fritzel the opportunity to trick us all once again, especially when so much money is on the table.

Catalano 5 years, 7 months ago

His architect has no imagination, either.

patkindle 5 years, 7 months ago

hey, just build it, after all it is all about the kids, and it only costs pennies a day, no need for a vote, let the worker bees write the check,

Jeremiah Jefferson 5 years, 7 months ago

"the community’s indoor recreation spaces were sorely lacking."

Hmm, from the looks of their drawing they will still be playing outdoors.. If its an indoor arena/field house we need, then why does the picture show a baseball field, a track around a field and a soccor field?

Just saying

irvan moore 5 years, 7 months ago

this project is a prime example of why we should have commissioners that repressent districts instead of an elected at large body.

Patricia Davis 5 years, 7 months ago

It already is the way we have it now. I think Lawrence is way overdue for this change.

patkindle 5 years, 7 months ago

hey , this is all about the fat kids, after all we tax baby gfood dont we.?????????????? the parents of these fat kids wont break a sweat getting thier kids off the sofa at home to do some work, so the city has to build a sports complex so it will be fun , fun is what is all about. work is bad, fun is good

pizzapete 5 years, 7 months ago

Tayler Tolefree, are there no volleyball courts at your high school? Maybe you should ask them to put one in. Or maybe you could have your dad put up a net in your backyard? I know there is a sand volleyball pit at Broken Arrow park and I've never seen anyone there using it.

We already have plenty of options available for physical recreation in Lawrence. Besides the many fields, tracks, and other work out facilities on the KU campus, there's a cross country track at Haskell University and a 1/4 mile track at the Lawrence High school that are seldom used by the general public. In addition, we have biking, walking, and jogging paths at Clinton Lake that also get little use. The problem, as I see it, is not that we don't have available facilities, it's that many kids today are not using them, they'd rather be inside playing video games. Maybe we should build a twelve million dollar state of the art indoor video game playing pavilion if we're really serious about giving the kids what they want?

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