Archive for Sunday, September 2, 2012

City looks at options for new rec center property

This architect rendering of the proposed recreation center in northwest Lawrence shows the 172,000-square-foot fieldhouse. The drawing was provided by Paul Werner Architects and GouldEvans.

This architect rendering of the proposed recreation center in northwest Lawrence shows the 172,000-square-foot fieldhouse. The drawing was provided by Paul Werner Architects and GouldEvans.

September 2, 2012


City officials confirmed they are looking at a new piece of property to house a northwest Lawrence sports complex, as negotiations drag on with private developers seeking to locate the facility at Sixth Street and the South Lawrence Trafficway.

Mayor Bob Schumm said city officials have been studying the feasibility of an 87-acre site that is north and east of the intersection of Sixth Street and the SLT. Specifically, the property, owned by members of the Stultz family, is just north of where George Williams Way currently dead-ends.

So far, city commissioners have been focusing their attention on a 50-acre site at the northwest corner of Sixth Street and the SLT. A group led by Lawrence developer Duane Schwada has proposed to donate the site, but thus far the city and Schwada haven’t been able to come up with an agreeable donation contract. Negotiations with a group led by Thomas Fritzel — which has proposed to finance and own the 181,000-square-foot recreation center and lease it back to the city on a 20-year lease-purchase agreement ­— also are not complete.

“We’re not there yet on the Schwada site,” Schumm said. “We have some issues on the donation agreement, and we have some issues on the construction of it. We are not in a position where we can offer the public a good, solid plan right now.”

But Schumm said he still believes the city’s top choice for the recreation complex, which would include the city recreation center plus a Kansas University soccer field and track stadium, is the Schwada site.

City Commissioner Hugh Carter also said he’s hopeful a deal can be finalized to secure the Schwada site at the Sixth and SLT intersection. But he said the 87-acre site to the north is a viable option.

“I’ll be very excited to move forward with the Schwada site, if the details are worked out,” Carter said. “If not, I will be very excited to move forward with the other site. I think we have two good sites.”

Site options

Carter said he believes the Schwada site needs to grow from 50 acres to 60 acres. The additional 10 acres are needed to accommodate parking. As currently planned, the site will have 800 paved parking spots plus another 817 temporary spots in grassy fields on the site. That’s more than 1,600 spaces, but plans call for the KU track stadium to have 7,000 to 10,000 seats.

If an additional 10 acres are added to the site, it could add another 1,450 temporary parking spaces to handle large crowds.

“I just feel like the site has to grow by 10 acres,” Carter said. “I don’t want to feel like we’re shoehorning something in there.”

At least one commissioner also wants to talk about a third site. City Commissioner Mike Amyx said he wants to discuss the feasibility of building just a city recreation center on property the city already owns near Wakarusa and Overland drives, near Walmart.

“Do we need to be on that large of a site out west? I’m not sure,” Amyx said. “I know I don’t want to have any shortfalls in the future of being able to pay for this.”

As proposed, the city would pay Fritzel’s group $24 million over 20 years as part of a lease-purchase agreement. The $24 million would come from an existing sales tax that has been used to pay for previous recreation projects and also the Lawrence-Douglas County Community Health Building. Debts on those projects are set to be retired, and commissioners are proposing to use the newly freed-up money on the recreation center.

To this point, the city’s cost of $24 million — plus several million dollars to extend infrastructure to the site — has held steady. But Schumm confirmed other details of the proposed agreement with Fritzel’s group have changed.

Previously, the city said Fritzel, who is an executive with Gene Fritzel Construction Co., had agreed that no Fritzel entity would bid on building the recreation center.

But now, according to Schumm, Fritzel has said he does want Fritzel entities to be able to bid on the project. In addition, Fritzel is proposing a nontraditional bid process. The city and Fritzel’s nonprofit entity, The Bliss Foundation, would have to mutually agree on the companies that would be invited to bid. The bids would be publicly released, but because Fritzel’s foundation technically would own the building, the foundation would have the final say in selecting the winning bidder.

New zoning category

On their Tuesday evening agenda, commissioners have a request to approve a new zoning category for the 146 acres at the northwest corner of Sixth and the SLT. The new zoning category would allow retail and commercial development on the property surrounding the recreation center.

Schumm, however, said he expects the zoning request to be deferred. He said he is not comfortable approving the zoning without first having proposed contracts with Schwada and the Fritzel groups.

But Schumm said he does plan on leaving the rezoning request on the city’s agenda so that the public can weigh in on the project.

“I think we need to air out where we are at on this project, and I think the public needs to tell us where it’s at on it as well,” Schumm said.

Commissioners meet at 6:35 p.m. Tuesday at City Hall.


David Holroyd 5 years, 8 months ago

If. the Bliss Foundation. Owns the building, again where is the giving back to Lawrence? Why are we paying now the bliss Foundation. 1.2 million a year for 20 years, This is beginning to smell like the way the. Towers. got built and Varsity House as well. Why isn't the Bliss Foundation building this rec center with no money from the city? Then donate it and that is a true gift! Lawtence has some real gullible taxpayers. Even Chad won't ask the question,

tdennehy 5 years, 8 months ago

Honestly, this little arrangement looks DIRTY to me. I agree... Lawrence has some extremely gullible taxpayers.

A long time ago, the people got tired of it and threw the tea into the harbor. Just sayin....

Evan Ridenour 5 years, 8 months ago

The city is already committed (foolishly) to building an $18 million (likely much, much more) library. The police department is in need of a new facility which is estimated to cost at least $20 million. A new water treatment plant needs to be built also to the tune of $15-20 million dollars. There are several major roadway projects that need funding also to the tune of tens of millions of dollars. The fire department is still using trucks that are aged and need to be replaced, also to the cost of tens of millions of dollars, etc, etc, etc.

But yes, instead of spending increasingly scarce tax dollars on actual infrastructure needs we should most definitely fritter away $20+ million on a recreation center that is located FAR away from the majority of the city's population. Everyone knows that people will drive across town to use a recreation center right?!

Oh, I forgot... We are arguing that we will attract national tournaments that will pay for the cost of the center? That is right... Oh. Except that the city's own analysis shows that the prospective revenue from landing said tournaments would at best (and this is under the most favorable of terms) ALMOST cover the operating cost of the facility. In reality, comparable facilities in other areas cost at minimum TWICE as much to operate as estimated by the city. Further, the actual ability of the facility to attract major tournaments is entirely speculative. This has been further reinforced by the announced plans of a major recreation complex being built at the Legends in Kansas City.

The recreation center as planned would: (1) cater to a minority of our local residents as it is located a substantial distance away from almost the entire population, (2) has no real plan to actually provide fee and tax revenue to the city by hosting major tournaments, (3) will cost tens of millions of dollars to construct (after the likely cost overruns), and (4) deprive our city of tax dollars that are needed for infrastructure projects that actually provide a tangible benefit to the residents of Lawrence.

This is an asinine waste of taxpayer money, but at least the individuals who own the construction firm and the land will make money. That is what our tax dollars really are there for isn't it?

tdennehy 5 years, 8 months ago

Well said. I can see the taxpayers being on the hook for everything, and then refused access by KU. "Sorry, no admittance without a student ID".

James Minor 5 years, 8 months ago

KU preaches tradition yet they are trying to move the KU Relays to a location where traditions stops. KU Relays should be at the KU stadium. The Rec center should be focused on meeting the needs of the Lawrence community.

tdennehy 5 years, 8 months ago

I seem to recall the city fighting Wal-Mart, stating a concern was the increased traffic load in the 6th & Wakarusa area. Why was that a concern then, but not now? Sixteen hundred parking spaces means a lot of cars. Can someone please explain how all these people are going to get from KU to this facility?

I agree - the proposed center is nowhere near the local residents. I doubt it will generate enough money to even cover the operating costs, and provide no tax revenue. At least the construction company will make money...

Tomato 5 years, 8 months ago

It doesn't just not serve the majority of residents - it doesn't even serve the residents on the West side of town. There is nothing that has been released to suggest that this is a recreation center - it's a sports complex. It caters to organized sports only.

There's been no discussion of an outdoor pool, no exercise facility, no skating rink, no plans to offer fitness classes - nothing that normal people would use or be remotely interested in.

This isn't a project that is about serving the community - this is a project about hosting tournaments - and many citizens have pointed out very valid criticisms of that plan and how appropriate it is for Lawrence.

Richard Heckler 5 years, 8 months ago

KU Athletics should build its' track south of Allen Fieldhouse as was proposed by Lew Perkins.

I think taxpayers should come out strong for voter approval.

This mammoth project violates the spirit in which the 1994 sales tax was approved in my estimation. Not to mention this tax money was not dedicated to the park department per se.

The 1994 sales tax was never presented as an Economic Growth sales tax. Taxpayers were talking neighborhood rec centers. I am of the opinion city commissioners might not have the authority to interpret this sales tax agreement to meet their demands. The voters did not agree to "open interpretation".

A more Fiscally Responsible Approach.

The argument that Lawrence needs more courts is solved by adding additional space to Holcom Rec Center, East Lawrence Rec Center and make use various USD 497 courts throughout the community. Taxpayers own all of this as we speak. It's paid for.

The Lawrence Sports Corporation complains that summer basketball tournaments cannot be scheduled because Robinson Gym is not air conditioned. Air conditioning is a relatively inexpensive fix to that situation. Lawrence could easily offer 8 world level tournament basket ball courts with two at Robinson,6 at Ambler all within the shadow of the fabled Allen Fieldhouse (also has 2 or 3 courts). That should sell tournaments no sweat.

tdennehy 5 years, 8 months ago

Agreed. Let KU use their own land for their own projects, and that way the students won't have to drive 4 miles to go to the proposed site.

I like the idea of using courts we already own. Schools are already in our neighborhoods, we're already familiar with them, and we already own them. We have parking and convenient access, too! Why can't we just pay the schools a small fee to rent the courts on weekends, breaks, and over the summer?

It seems to me that KU has plenty of land, but they just don't want to use it.

This whole deal seems dirty to me...

Richard Heckler 5 years, 8 months ago

Obviously local politicians get itchy to spend these sales tax dollars. How can commissioners help reduce the local tax load or spend responsibly?

IF a more fiscal responsible use of the 1994 sale tax cannot applied in such a manner that favors the greater majority of the taxpayers instead of the few perhaps it is time to consider repealing all or a portion of the sales tax in an effort to reduce the local sales tax.

Or use the sales tax money to reduce property taxes thereby eliminating the need to increase the mill levy.

Or build an actual rec center with two full size courts and a walking track in Northwest Lawrence on the 37 acres the city now owns next to Free State High School which is a bit more centrally located. It does not need $6 million or more $$$$ for new infrastructure. This is far more consistent with the promised use of the 1994 voter approved sales tax money.

Perhaps add a second full sized court at Holcomb and East Lawrence rec centers. This provides adequate,equitable and conveniently located space throughout the Lawrence tax dollar area.

No matter what contribute 10%-15% of the 1994 sales tax dollars for a community project known as rehabilitation of our local elementary schools. Excellent use of tax dollars thus preventing a need for a bond issue or tax increase. Smart economics.

Remember Gov Sam Brownback is projected to remove 10%-15% of state tax dollars from our local cookie jars.

Taxpayers cannot afford the Schwada-Fritzell plan.

tdennehy 5 years, 8 months ago

Merrill, please run for public office. I will vote for you.

Richard Heckler 5 years, 8 months ago

Let's not forget taxpayers on the hook for the USD 497 share of PLAY at more than $20 million which was approved by the previous school board..... not the taxpayers. I am not interested in spending more on PLAY which thus far includes new football and soccer facilities plus new locker rooms and concession stands.... new score boards.

The LPD is requesting a facility at about $40 million.

The sewage treatment plant at $50-$90 million

The 31st street expansion at who knows how many millions of $$$$.

Who knows how many more millions will be spent at the Farmland site?

If the SLT moves forward that will be a $200-$300 million tax dollar waste and no one knows who will be paying for this. Local taxpayers may get hit to help pay for part or all of it. I believe 90 million has already been spent on the two lane speedway.

tdennehy 5 years, 8 months ago

Well, the SLT could be paid for with a k-tag. Those that work in OP could either pay to use the connector, or drive through town for free. At least it would not be paid for with another mill levy increase.

Richard Heckler 5 years, 8 months ago

Do the Pros Outweigh The Cons? - Analysis in Understandable Language The answer appears to be no.

Richard Heckler 5 years, 8 months ago

Build the KU track on KU campus behind Allen Fieldhouse. Coach Self could donate a million $$$$ to the track and have his name all over it. And why not?

Jayhawk basketball cannot sell this new field house concept now or next year and KU Athletics it seems cannot market this facility = monster promotion budget for taxpayers.

Developers thought Jayhawk Basketball would bring millions of shoppers to Lawrence which of course has proven to be a gigantic illusion.

Contrary to a another article on this matter in the paper today it seems Mayor Bob Schumm and Commissioner Carter have signed off on the reckless use of tax dollars. It's their choice of words not mine. The implications are in place.

Jayhawk basketball is good for basketball season ..... that's it. No matter how developers and politicians spin it.

There is no gift involved. Taxpayers are being asked to shell out 30 million $$$$ at the very least.

Dan Simons 5 years, 8 months ago

Farmland with 23rd and 15th street access , large amount of land already owned by city, much closer to infrastructure , 15th needs work anyway, huge 200k building concrete pad already in existence , closer to the kc/desoto growth corridor , sure seems like this should get a good look

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 8 months ago

"I am still miffed that the Journal World doesn't now inquire who and what the Bliss Foundation is?"

It's a very levitating story.

lawrencereporter 5 years, 8 months ago

oneeye_wilbur: it’s easy to find out who the Bliss Foundation is, just go to the State of Kansas Business Entity search website and search by name.

I did this one for you. The Bliss Foundation board is Thomas Fritzel, 209 Fall Creek, Lawrence Kansas, Dru Fritzel, 209 Fall Creek, Lawrence Kansas, Kimberly Cox, Madison New Jersey, Jacqueline Lewis, Georgetown Massachusetts, and Ann Ozorkiewicz, 3707 West 6th Lawrence, Kansas.

I’m guessing Kimberly and Jacqueline are friends of the Fritzel and Ann is an employee of Fritzel’s. Ann’s address is the same as the storage units on west 6th street next to Wendy’s, Fritzel owns it.

There you go oneeye_wilbur, hope this helps you.

Patricia Davis 5 years, 8 months ago

Are any of these people on Bill Self's Foundation?

joes_donuts 5 years, 8 months ago

Only reason this facility makes sense is to attract people to Lawrence. With the proposed locations, it is not a neighborhood facility. So, with that said, if we are going to attract people to town, where do we want them spending their time? In my opinion, downtown.

So, the city should let Ku build their own facilities on there own land with their own utilities, and build this mega complex next to downtown. Why not the north Lawrence riverfront area? I don't know what is happening with that or if fritzel owns that too, buT it would make the Most sense. Right next to downtown, no new utilities, and plenty of new hotels being built in the area. Instead our city wants to send visitors halfway to Topeka, in a field, where we have little chance of them going downtown. That will make a nice lasting impression of Lawrence on all new visitors (cannot wait to hear more Dorothy and toto comments when people talk of kansas).

irvan moore 5 years, 8 months ago

that makes sense, i think the riverfront area is one of the best places for the city to develop, i can't believe the commissioners sold the mall years ago and the present commissioners aren't smart enough to buy it back, simons want to sell and it's the prime real estate downtown. oh, that's it, some of the commissioners developer buddies have future plans for it so selling it to the city would interfere with future developer profits

lawrencechick 5 years, 8 months ago

Can we just get back to building a West Lawrence rec center as originally planned. It just needs to be about the size of the East Lawrence rec center, we don't need the Taj Mahal. Larger rec/tournament centers can be built privately.

blindrabbit 5 years, 8 months ago

I like the City Commissioners was initially taken in by the Kool-Aid sales pitch on this project. But have come to realize that the thing is being greatly oversold by the Commissions, the Developers and all who are interested in the building expansion to the West of Lawrence. With the NCAA's warning KU about getting too involved, I wonder now why KU would even be interested in hooking up with something so far removed from campus. Seems to me that Lew Perkins had the right idea (maybe the only time) to build the KU track and field facility in university space either near Allen Fieldhouse or on West Campus property. Just think of trying to run a major collegiate track and field event out in a cow pasture away from facilities and supporting interstructure, let alone the lack of ammenities for a fan base.

The City needs to take a realistic look at what building the proposed Rec Center means in terms of extending needed services, operating expenses, likliehood of success in view of other competitions and remoteness. It appears that the current Commission was presented a appealing idea, and they added layers of frosting on the cake until it has become unrealistic.

Reid Hollander 5 years, 8 months ago

"ust think of trying to run a major collegiate track and field event out in a cow pasture away from facilities and supporting interstructure, let alone the lack of ammenities for a fan base."

Oh, you mean like Rim Rock Farm? That seems to work out pretty good.

Carol Bowen 5 years, 8 months ago

Cut this enterprise loose. If it really is a secure investment, let them build without our tax money. Shoot, I'd even help them out with the zoning.

What kind of sculdugary allows the city commission to redirect the sales tax we voters approved which included a west side neighborhood recreation center? Does this mean that the sales tax should go on forever? Can the commission arbitrarily spend money once they have the revenue (cash) stream?

What Merill is suggesting is that this proposal should be a separate bond issue. Build the west side recreation center with the sales tax.

jafs 5 years, 8 months ago

Voters should never approve open ended tax increases that aren't specifically designated for certain kind of things, and that never end.

Apparently the '94 sales tax increase was that sort of increase.

Carol Bowen 5 years, 8 months ago

You're right. That sales tax had no sunset, but it did have a list of projects to be completed. The west side rec center is the only remaining project. I don't think the commission at the time considered a sunset. I'll bet they're surprised about how their tax turned out.

blindrabbit 5 years, 8 months ago

With the City Commission ready to take the plunge on this project without doing a great deal of investigating (think of a kid in a candy store) as to the likliehood of success or failure of this project, I suggest they name the thing "The Amxy Carter Cromwell Dever Shumm Cow Pasture Sports Complex" This way, in the future they can get the recognition and/or shame they deserve if the thing does not pan out as they expect. This suggestion should be applied to the Lawrence Sesquicentennial Park by renaming it "The Cleniece Hills Most Remote Park"

Carol Bowen 5 years, 8 months ago

I'm not sure Mike Amyx will support this project. He has made comments about overspending.

Carol Bowen 5 years, 8 months ago

Here are two items worth reading. The first is a description of the sales tax. The Paks and Rec item was the only one that referenced its master plan. All of the projects listed are practical.

Carol Bowen 5 years, 8 months ago

The master plan is hard to find. I did find a chapter in H2020, chapter 9, updated in 2006. The only specifics were potential new park sites.

There should be a more detailed plan somewhere. I know there was much discussion about the need for another recreation center on the west side based on a study of the maps in 2006.

April Fleming 5 years, 8 months ago

Why not use the Farmland site for this stupid thing?

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