Town Talk: Plans for Rock Chalk Park sports complex in N.W. Lawrence, including amphitheater and future arena site; N.Y. hedge funds makes local industrial purchase, plus weekly land transfers
News and notes from around town:
• Rock Chalk — it is not just for Mount Oread anymore. Soon enough, it may be the new slogan for northwest Lawrence too.
More detailed plans have been filed at Lawrence City Hall for a Kansas University/city of Lawrence sports and recreation park, and those plans make it clear KU will be taking center stage in the partnership.
The preliminary name submitted for the new complex — which if you remember, has now been moved to the east side of the South Lawrence Trafficway, just north of the northeast corner of Sixth and the SLT — is Rock Chalk Park.
The plans are certainly bigger and more ambitious than a previous proposal for a smaller site just west of the SLT. That project tentatively was named the Lawrence Sports Village, if that gives you an idea of how the focus has changed.
As for the facilities and amenities, many of those are still much as we’ve previously reported, but there are a few twists. Perhaps the one that will create the most questions is a notation on the plans that reserves space for a 40,000-square-foot arena. I’m no arena expert, but I think that is a fairly small arena (Sprint Center, for example, is more than 500,000 square feet, I believe) so people who are worrying that the university is setting aside a spot for a new basketball arena … well, I’ll say that is certainly not the impression I got from the plans. But the plans also don’t give much of a clue about what type of arena it may be. I’m hoping to talk to architects and KU officials today, and I’ll report back.
Also of potential interest, is about a 4,000-seat amphitheater that has been added to the plans. Unlike the arena, the outdoor amphitheater is proposed to be a part of the first phase of development. It is slated to be very near the city’s recreation center, and also what looks like will be a beautiful natural spot near a creek that runs through the property.
The latest plans are the most detailed yet for the sports complex, but more detailed plans are still to come. These plans are part of the process the project must go through to get a special use permit. That hearing is on track to happen before the end of the year. At some point an actual site plan will be filed that will show the project in greater detail. But here’s a look at what is proposed right now:
— The city’s recreation center/youth fieldhouse is still planned to be about 181,000 square feet. The building — which will include a multitude of gyms, a fitness center and other indoor recreation space — is slated for the far north end of the site. It is kind of near where the creek runs through the property, which has been mentioned as a spot where the city ultimately could develop a first-class cross country or nature trail. At one time there was talk of having the center more on the southern end of the site, which would put it closer to both Sixth Street and the SLT. But that portion of the property is now reserved for the future arena.
— Plans call for eight tennis courts (I presume lighted courts) to be built near the city’s recreation center. The plans also show room for at least 12 more courts on the southern end of the site, but I’m not sure how many, if any, are included in the first phase.
— KU facilities proposed to be built as part of the first phase of the project include: a track and field stadium with 7,500 permanent seats and 2,500 temporary seats; a soccer field with 2,500 seats; and a softball field with 1,000 seats.
— The new site certainly will provide more paved parking than the plan on the west side of the SLT called for. The new plans show 1,400 paved spots, compared to about 800 at the other site. But planners also recognize that even more parking may be needed for a really large event held at the 10,000 seat track and field stadium. The plans include a note that says a “detailed parking/shuttle bus plan” will be developed by KU and the city.
— The KU portion of the project would include more than just outdoor sports fields. There also would be all the necessary locker rooms, press boxes, concession areas and other amenities you find at major college athletic facilities. In addition, the plans call for a 15,000-square-foot, two-story “training facility” to be built on site.
— Two new roads are planned as part of the development. A new road would run west from where George Williams Way currently dead ends. It is tentatively planned to be named Rock Chalk Drive. George Williams Way also would be extended north to lead into the large parking lot for the complex. A new road to serve the interior of the complex also would be built. It is scheduled to be named Rock Chalk Parkway.
— So far, all the improvements are slated for 89.8 acres that are directly north and west of where George Williams Way currently dead ends. But the property that is slated to be purchased by Kansas University Endowment also includes 19.7 acres that is farther north and west. Plans currently show that property remaining vacant but being available for expansion in the future.
• It is another week, which means another week of land sales and property transfers as recorded by the Douglas County Register of Deeds office.
There were a few sales of note during this most recent period. We previously reported apartments were slated for the property just west of the Wal-Mart at Sixth and Wakarusa, which once was a site that Lowe’s Home Improvement Center was interested in. That plan is still moving forward, and now there’s new information about the developer behind the project. According to the land transfers the property at 525 Congressional was purchased by 3C Holdings, LC. The company is led by Lawrence builder Kelly Drake, who has built many homes in the city with his Mallard Homes company.
There is also news about who owns one of the larger, newer industrial buildings in the county. According to the land transfers, Packerware LLC — also known as Berry Plastics — has sold its new distribution center at 650 N 1800 Road to AGNL Plastics LLC. I had long heard that a New York hedge fund was a major player in the financing of these large facility that is just northwest of the Lecompton interchange on the Kansas Turnpike. Indeed, it appears that is what is going on here. AGNL Plastics, according to documents with the Kansas Secretary of State, is led by Angelo, Gordon & Co., a large New York firm that manages about $25 billion in assets.
Anyway, click here for the complete list of sales for the week ending Oct. 1.