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Archive for Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Officials intrigued by rec center switch

A rendering of the basketball court at the proposed rec center in northwest Lawrence.

A rendering of the basketball court at the proposed rec center in northwest Lawrence.

September 12, 2012

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Bigger may end up being better.

Lawrence city leaders, it appears, are interested in finding out.

One day after Kansas University announced that it was abandoning one set of plans and proposing a new location for a more ambitious sports complex in northwest Lawrence, reaction from city leaders ranged from full-blown enthusiasm to cautious optimism.

“I’m ecstatic,” said City Commissioner Hugh Carter. “This can be so much more than just parking lots and buildings. This has the opportunity to be a real mixture between the university and the community.”

KU leaders on Tuesday delivered a letter notifying city officials that the university was no longer interested in a proposed partnership to locate a sports complex on 50 acres of property at the northwest corner of Sixth Street and the South Lawrence Trafficway. Instead, KU leaders said they would like the city to locate its proposed $24 million recreation center/youth fieldhouse on a 108-acre site that would be north of a planned retail development at the northeast corner of Sixth Street and the South Lawrence Trafficway.

In addition to a KU track and field stadium and soccer field — which were planned for the previous site — the new site also would include a KU softball stadium for its women’s team. If the city were to locate its proposed recreation center on the site, the project could become a major attraction for sporting events and recreation all year long.

“We invite the city to join us and forge new opportunities to make the city of Lawrence and the University of Kansas national leaders in providing athletic opportunities to its residents and student-athletes,” KU Athletic Director Sheahon Zenger wrote in a letter to city leaders.

City commissioners on Wednesday said they still believe the idea of the city and the university locating its facilities on the same property made sense.

“We may have changed our focus on locations, but I don’t think our focus on working together has changed at all,” said City Commissioner Mike Dever.

At least two city commissioners said they also are still interested in a partnership with Lawrence businessman Thomas Fritzel and his non-profit foundation. At the previous site, Fritzel had proposed that his foundation would build the $24 million building, and the city would purchase it from the foundation through a 20-year lease-purchase agreement. He also had proposed a similar deal to the university as it related to the KU facilities.

Both Carter and Dever said they still were interested in a Fritzel partnership.

“I think it is clear that we can only do a $16 million or $17 million building on our own,” Carter said. “The difference between that and a $24 million building is enormous. For this to be the type of draw we want it to be, we need to have some of these features we can’t do on our own.”

Attempts to reach Fritzel for comment were unsuccessful. But Paul Werner — a Lawrence architect who has been working for Fritzel on the recreation center project — said all indications are that Fritzel wants to partner with the city and KU on the new site.

“I think he absolutely wants to be involved in this,” Werner said.

Werner filed the application to annex and rezone the 108 acres, which currently are owned by an entity controlled by Lawrence builder Mike Stultz. Werner said the site — which is directly north and west of where George Williams Way dead ends north of Sixth Street — has a lot going for it.

Werner said the site, which is about 60 acres bigger than the original site at the northwest corner, will more easily accommodate expansion and overflow parking for major events. He also said its location on the east side the South Lawrence Trafficway should make it easier for west Lawrence residents who want to walk or bike to the complex.

“People won’t have to figure out how to cross the bypass, and that is significant,” Werner said.

The property also is adjacent to about 40 acres of undeveloped parkland the city already owns. The city-owned land runs through a wooded section of Baldwin Creek that Parks and Recreation leaders said could make for an attractive walking or jogging trail.

The size of the proposed sports complex also could allow the city to install lighted tennis courts to replace the lighted courts that were lost due to construction at Lawrence High, said Mayor Bob Schumm.

But there also are questions about the site. The property needs roads extended to it, and will need some work to hook onto city water and sewer service. City officials are preparing new estimates for those costs, which previously were projected at $5 million.

But the infrastructure costs for the original site at the northwest corner were expected to be about $7 million for the city and another $3 million in state road improvements.

The city, however, had planned on recouping a good portion of those infrastructure costs through a special tax that would be imposed on new retail development surrounding the sports complex. That wouldn’t be the case with the new site, and it is uncertain how those costs would be paid for. The KU plan does not call for any retail development on its 108-acre site.

Instead, necessary hotels, restaurants and other accommodations would be expected to develop in an already-approved retail development just south of the site. That development is owned by a group led by Lawrence businessman Duane Schwada. Schwada also owns the property on the northwest corner of the intersection. He had proposed donating 50 to 60 acres to the city for a recreation center, and then the idea of joint city-KU sports complex grew from there.

Schwada’s northwest corner is up for rezoning that would allow retail development at the corner. But a majority of commissioners said Wednesday they weren’t interested in zoning the northwest corner for retail, if the sports complex is not slated to go there.

An attempt to reach a representative for Schwada wasn’t successful Wednesday. Carter, though, said Schwada should be acknowledged for his contribution to the project.

“The Schwadas came up with a very good outside-the-box idea, and they deserve a lot of credit for jump-starting the discussion,” Carter said.

Commissioners plan on discussing KU’s proposal in more detail at their Tuesday evening meeting at City Hall.

Comments

Richard Heckler 1 year, 7 months ago

Should the city spend $20 million or more on the PLAY project? http://www2.ljworld.com/polls/2007/may/should_city_spend_20_million_or_more_play_project/

Taxpayers have already spent $20 million $$$$ on PLAY by way of the school district. This field house concept is further expansion of PLAY.

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Richard Heckler 1 year, 7 months ago

Best keep a close eye because big time athletics is not exactly a cash cow for taxpayers...

JUAN GONZALEZ: Well, I was struck — you have numerous chapters in the book on the various aspects of this transfer, but I was especially struck by your material on the New York Yankees and Steinbrenner and Joyce Hogi, who you mention in the book, who I know well, and this whole issue of sports teams across America and how the public is subsidizing them. Could you elaborate on that part of it?

DAVID CAY JOHNSTON: Sure. George Steinbrenner is getting over $600 million for the new Yankee Stadium in New York. The New York Mets are getting over $600 million. In fact, the City of New York gave them money to lobby against the taxpayers to get more money. Rudy Giuliani gave $50 million to the two teams for that purpose.

The new owners of the Washington Nationals baseball team in Washington, D.C., paid $450 million for the team. But, in fact, they got the team for free, because the subsidy they’re getting for the new stadium is worth $611 million. We actually paid these people to buy the team.

Now, in this country right now, we are spending $2 billion a year subsidizing the big four sports: baseball, basketball, football and hockey. It accounts for all of the profits of that industry and more. Now, there may be individual teams that make money, but the industry as a whole is not profitable. And that’s astonishing because the big four leagues are exempt from the laws of competition. By the way, irony is not dead, because here are people who are in the business of competition on the field who are exempted by law from the rules of economic competition.

If you go to England and you want to start a soccer team, they have to let you join the soccer league. There are thirteen commercial soccer teams in the London area. New York City, the biggest city in the country, there are two baseball teams, because there’s no free entry into the market. In Los Angeles, there’s no football team. And the owners use this power to prevent others from owning teams, to prevent municipal governments from owning teams, to prevent nonprofits from owning teams, to extract money from the taxpayers to build them new stadiums.

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jman785 1 year, 7 months ago

I have been confused about this since the beginning of the rec center discussion. Why are we not looking in to the land that sits at the intersection of 15th(bob billings) and kasold? That is a large plot of land in the middle of lawrence. Just curious if KU owns that farm land currently.

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kuguardgrl13 1 year, 7 months ago

My question is why does KU feel the need to build these new facilities so far from campus? I can sort of understand the track and field complex, given that there is little space in main campus. The soccer and softball fields? What's wrong with improving the fields we have? They could improve the stands around both fields and be able to use existing parking and not have the athletes travel more than halfway across town for games. I'm not saying our girls don't deserve nice facilities (because they do), but there are easier and more logical ways of doing it. They could even remodel or tear down Robinson and build a respectable natatorium. And this talk of all the improvements that could be made to Memorial Stadium is ridiculous. People say that we need to move that stadium into the 21st century. I ask you: Are YOU as an individual going to pay to sit in overpriced, luxury seats to watch mediocre football? Those fancy recliner seats in the south endzone are hardly ever full at the beginning of the game, and they're empty by halftime. What's the point in adding more seats when we can't fill it the way it is? We'd have better luck at Haskell or either of the high schools. KU is not on the level of Ohio State or some of the others that have stadiums to rival those in the NFL. There has to be improvement on the field before people will even consider paying lots of money for luxury seats. I know I certainly won't pay a lot as an alum to watch mediocre football.

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Richard Heckler 1 year, 7 months ago

This is a prime example of how government officials can misinterpret the spirit in which this sales tax was passed. This represents one more attempt to ignite a "housing boom town economy" aka inflation beyond reality. Which is why so many owe more more than their homes are worth and may never bounce back.

KU does not need city hall as a partner. Taxpayers do not need city hall to partner with KU.

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oneeye_wilbur 1 year, 7 months ago

Endowment is fleecing the public on this just as the fire station at 19th and Iowa. " free". Land with over priced station and the public is stuck with the upkeep.

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Richard Heckler 1 year, 7 months ago

Let it be a KU project only. The rest of Lawrence Kansas will benefit. Leave it alone.

If prudent,equitable and/or fiscally responsible spending cannot be exhibited perhaps taxpayers would be interested in repealing all or part this sales tax as a means to reducing taxes for a change?

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Richard Heckler 1 year, 7 months ago

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

How about if Lawrence,Kansas rehabilitates our elementary schools by using 10%-15% of the 1994 sales tax money to reduce our property taxes? In the event USD 497 needs to increase our property taxes to fund the rehab project. Let our 1994 sales tax dollars be a team player. Fiscally prudent absolutely!

Additionally I say a NW neighborhood rec center could still be constructed with 2 gyms and a walking/jogging track for public exercise probably for about $10 million. Plus include additional court space at East Lawrence and Holcomb Rec Centers for maybe another $3 million.

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 community as well as improved property values for more families. 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.

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CHEEZIT 1 year, 7 months ago

That is cool. As my son's were growing up we watched a lot of baseball all around the midwest and we always said why doesn't Lawrence have this or that, we could support that! Oh well. Actually watching that video I was wandering when the last time corn looked that good around here :)

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lawrencereporter 1 year, 7 months ago

Cheezit: The Field of Dreams field is still alive and well 23 years after movie was made and is open for visitors. It is under contract to be sold but will remain open. I was there a few years ago, fun times. There are plans to build the "AllStar Ballpark Heaven" a 24-field tourament facility surrounding the Field of Dreams field. Incredible! Dyersville, Iowa population 4,058 Check it out. www.allstarballparkheaven.com www.fieldofdreamsmoviesite.com

>
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Windemere 1 year, 7 months ago

Build the gyms we need (at least 8). That's the pressing need. The nice-to-haves (other rec space, meeting space, trails) belong much lower on the list. Maybe KUs leadership will kick this into gear - if so, wonderful.

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mdlund0 1 year, 7 months ago

Moving past my previous comment, can someone remind me why, if we can only buy a $16 million building, we're trying to buy a $24 million building? Bad finances abound! If you can only afford a Honda Civic, you shouldn't be trying to by a BMW! Even when the dealer says "Oh! We've got a great financing deal for you!", don't believe the hype! (nothing against BMW... I like BMWs) Nothing comes for free, and businessmen are never, yes, you read that right, NEVER altruistic when it comes to $8 million in a business deal. The two rules of not getting screwed are: 1.) NOTHING IS FREE and 2.) BUY ONLY WHAT YOU CAN AFFORD.

1

mdlund0 1 year, 7 months ago

I am confused as to why the city thinks it needs a hand in anything like this. I've lived in several cities in the past decade and none of them have, to my knowledge, had publicly supported sports complexes. It seems very odd to me to think that this type of facility is necessary. Wouldn't the residents of Lawrence be better served by encouraging the YMCA, YWCA, Gold's Gym, etc. to establish a presence in the city and develop facilities that are supported by the subset of citizens interested in the services they have to offer? As far as attracting regional sports tournaments and the like, the idea that "if you build it, they will come" is a pipe dream and the resulting implication that this will eventually pay for itself by generating economic activity is an illusion.

1

consumer1 1 year, 7 months ago

“I’m ecstatic,” said City Commissioner Hugh Carter." Now there is a surprise... Isn't he a part of the "progressive" movement? How can such a monstrocity, taking up so much land, creating such a HUGE carbon footprint possibly be something this granola wants to support??? This is not a big box store, it is Gargantuan. where are all the granola's crying UNFAIR???

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paul85 1 year, 7 months ago

6th street has already grown too busy for its size and we want to add yet more traffic to this street? It used to be a nice ride past walkarusa or drive out to clinton parkway and down to the lake. This traffic increase will suck tremendously. Keep it off 6th street. Build it north or east instead.

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Pastor_Bedtime 1 year, 7 months ago

Favoritism rules here with two entities monopolizing development in town. The city should be limited to working with Compton and Fritzel on these pork partnerships to once a decade and allow other developers a more level playing field.

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JackMcKee 1 year, 7 months ago

Their prom date just ditched them for a hotter chick and they're excited to see what she wears. Morons.

KU got tired of dealing with you and moved on. Should have got Cramwell and his team of liars on board and included a downtown parking garage and tax increase.

The folks at KU laugh at the village idiots running this three ring circus multiple times each day.

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Pastor_Bedtime 1 year, 7 months ago

Since we're clamoring for things we can't afford, the facility should also include a helipad, zipline course, hot-air balloon launch and water park. Indoor snowboarding. Equestrian center. I'm sure I've left a few necessities out, folks, but hey, money is no object, right?

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irvan moore 1 year, 7 months ago

isn't there some rule that limits the amount of times during a term the city commissioners can screw the taxpayers

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Keith Richards 1 year, 7 months ago

If the city is going to spend this amount of money, at least demand the architects actually do some work and not just copy the design for the Kmart distribution center. Really the renderings are beyond pathetic for the rec center. http://goo.gl/maps/UrffF

2

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 1 year, 7 months ago

There may be some modest advantages to this proposal over the previous one, but it appears to me that KU has decided that this will be an easier sell if they take the lead from the city.

That allows city commissioners the cover of saying that the city is just along for the ride, so city taxpayers have no real choice but to go along for the ride (and bring $30 million for the fare.)

2

Phillbert 1 year, 7 months ago

Still a long drive for the vast majority of taxpayers who will be footing the bill.

2

repaste 1 year, 7 months ago

“I think it is clear that we can only do a $16 million or $17 million building on our own,” Carter said. “The difference between that and a $24 million building is enormous.

“I think he absolutely wants to be involved in this,” Werner said.

Mr Fritzel is driving this project and will profit handsomely. (7-8mill?) Just a good guess.

2

Number_1_Grandma 1 year, 7 months ago

Until we get new city commissioners in next election, no decisions should be made. This can wait until after April.

This commission has shown it doesn't have a clue on what is going on and what is 'good' for the city taxpayers or not.

2

lawrencereporter 1 year, 7 months ago

“People won’t have to figure out how to cross the bypass, and that is significant,”

This quote is from Paul Werner the architect the city is paying to design the recreation center along with John Wilkens of Gould Evans. Werner has been Fritzel's hired gun for years. John Wilkens and Paul Werner are also being paid by Fritzel to design the KU track stadium for Fritzel. So, the same two architects the City is paying are the exact same architects Fritzel is paying. Sounds fishy, smells fishy.

Instead of Werner worrying about "People" figuing out how to a cross a street? John Wilkens and Paul Werner should explain to the "People" the conflicts of being paid by both the city and Thomas Fritzel and that is significant.

3

mremboldt 1 year, 7 months ago

I HOPE they can put a roller/ice skating rink in it. I can't wait!

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oneeye_wilbur 1 year, 7 months ago

I am so ecstatic that the commissionersn have come up with a plan to screw the public financially for decades. Why can't Endowmnt build it and make it a true GIFT to the community. Even though the location sucks. It will be planned as poorly as New Dirty Dillons parking lot.

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