Questions persist

Can an ambitious recreation project being considered by the city really fulfill all of the goals being set for it?

September 9, 2012


It takes a while to get all the questions answered on a project with as many pieces as the proposed recreation complex at the northwest corner of Sixth Street and the South Lawrence Trafficway — and Lawrence city commissioners are right not to commit to the project until at least most of those questions are answered.

That hasn’t happened yet.

The overarching question that many taxpayers and some commissioners seem to be struggling with is exactly what purpose and what population the proposed complex is intended to serve. The complex is being touted as a way to serve local recreation needs, attract large tournament events to Lawrence and forge a beneficial partnership between the city and Kansas University, which reportedly has committed to building a new track and field facility next to the proposed recreation center.

There is a shortage of basketball courts for local leagues and recreation purposes, we are told. The new recreation center would supply eight full-sized courts to address that need but would place them at the far edge of the city, a less-than-ideal location for local users. If the goal is primarily to serve local recreation needs, many residents argue it would be better to build the center on land that is more centrally located or even use the money to build two or three smaller centers that would be more accessible to various Lawrence neighborhoods.

The second goal, which seems to be largely driving the proposal at this point, is to build a recreation center that will attract outside visitors to Lawrence for basketball and volleyball tournaments. This is an attractive prospect but something of a gamble. It’s hard to know how many tournaments the city would attract or exactly what the benefit to the city or other Lawrence businesses would be.

The third goal — a partnership with KU — also is attractive but also raises questions. The community has heard almost nothing directly from KU Athletics about this plan. It would be great to have a KU track, field and soccer facility that would attract national NCAA events, but is the northwest location the only, or even the best, location for such a facility? The KU facility would be a fine neighbor for a city recreation center, but there seems to be little synergy between the two facilities except for a common parking lot.

One benefit for the city in this project appears to be the willingness of developer Thomas Fritzel to offer a favorable financing deal that will allow the city to build a larger recreation facility than it otherwise could afford. That could be a savings for the city, but it also would mean some loss of city control for the project. Also, remember Fritzel is a developer and few developers enter into deals unless there is a profit angle somewhere in the project. The $10.7 million required to make infrastructure improvements for the proposed site also needs to be figured into the equation.

The proposed recreation project is a noble attempt to meet a number of city needs and goals, but it also runs the risk of trying to achieve so many goals that it doesn’t do any of them very well.


Jean Robart 1 year, 7 months ago

The question of the "reckless" center is not whether it can deliver on all its goals--it's whether it can deliver on ANY of its goals. This would not be a good project to bill the city residents. And don't be deceived, the residents will may and pay dearly for this gift.


cowboy 1 year, 7 months ago

Folks against something new in Lawrence , whoda thunk it...

Spent the morning at Blue Valley West watching a grandsons football game. A beautiful facility with soccer , softball , baseball , and football stadiums. They actually water the grass and it is beautiful. Contrast that with Lawrence and our build it tiny or don't build it at all mentality and one can immediately understand why Lawrence is getting smaller. Lawrence is a dump quite frankly. If I were moving to the area Lawrence would rank pretty low on my list.


uggadyboogadyboo 1 year, 7 months ago

Ya'll probably need to email these folks on how to fund sports. google this Texas' Allen High to open $60M football stadium


Windemere 1 year, 7 months ago

The city needs more gym space very badly. Happy to keep the scope of the project much smaller than what's being discussed today. In the current economic climate, very keen on conserving tax dollars and not gambling on something risky, as may be the case if we cross our fingers that we bring tournaments to town with a huge new facility. The new gym space need not be as far west as K10 & 6th, but in the interest of fairness, it most definitely ought to be on the west side of town, e.g. between Kasold & K10/6th St. Anyone who has had the fun of driving over to the E. Lawrence Rec Ctr and the joys of its parking situation will agree that new gym space belongs on the West side.


oneeye_wilbur 1 year, 7 months ago

That rec center design is about as ugly as wilbur's backside in the morning and just as ugly as Loring Henderson's homeless shelter.

Could it be that the city is planning for the future and the rec center is the future poor house? After all, it will have showers and meeting rooms and space for a garden.

I didn't think that the commissioners were that forward thinking and the Fritzel's as well. now it is a gift beginning to look more like a gift than ever before.


Kate Rogge 1 year, 7 months ago

Hey, McGee. Tell me again what a dolt and moron I am for opposing this project.


1 year, 7 months ago

Big box retail at a major gateway to our city is not something I am interested in


just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 1 year, 7 months ago

The writer forgot the single most important goal, and the main driver of this proposal-- the rezoning of this area, which will dramatically increase the value of the land after the extension of water, sewer and other services, at a considerable cost to taxpayers.


Richard Heckler 1 year, 7 months ago

A gift that costs Lawrence taxpayers no less than $30,000,000(million) is not really a gift.

BTW my house and a lot of East Lawrence is at least 10 miles from this big idea. That is about $7-$8 in gasoline. Prairie Park will be further away.


Richard Heckler 1 year, 7 months ago

In response to:

KU can do a world class track and field project on KU property behind Allen Fieldhouse. A plan put forth by Lew Perkins. This would definitely attract many fans and potential students to Lawrence,Kansas. This benefits the Lawrence business district at the same time. Infrastructure is in place. KU athletics has plenty of money.

How can Lawrence taxpayers get the best bang for our 1994 sales tax bucks and improve the quality of life for families throughout the community and our public school students?

How about partnering with USD 497 to rehabilitate our elementary schools? By applying 10%-15% of the 1994 sales tax money to reduce our city property taxes to offset any USD 497 need to increase our taxes for the rehab project. Let our 1994 sales tax dollars be a team player.

Additionally construct a NW neighborhood rec center with 2 gyms and a walking/jogging track for public exercise probably for about $10 million. Plus additional court space at East Lawrence and Holcomb Rec Centers for maybe another $3 million. Just estimating.

Now we have achieved shoring up the alleged lack of court space and improved the quality of life for our public school students throughout Lawrence,Kansas.

In doing the above Lawrence,Kansas has effectively improved the quality of life for more families throughout the sales tax dollar community. This is definitely within the spirit of the 1994 sales tax that was approved by families throughout the community.

A best bang for our 1994 sales tax dollars.


oneeye_wilbur 1 year, 7 months ago

Where is the gift part of this scam?


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