Archive for Saturday, September 15, 2012

Rec center puzzle involves many pieces and players

September 15, 2012


For some people, one of the best ways to get their minds off everyday troubles or pressures is to work on a jigsaw puzzle.

Jigsaw puzzles consist of hundreds, sometimes more than 1,000 pieces, of different-colored and different-shaped pieces of thin cardboard, which, when fitted together, form an attractive picture, like a landscape, flowers or other multi-colored scene. So far, there hasn’t been a jigsaw depicting a large multipurpose recreation center.

For the past several months, Lawrence residents have had a different kind of jigsaw puzzle laid before them with many different interests, goals, price tags and players. When all these interests are studied and put together, they hopefully would present an attractive picture that would be good for Lawrence and its residents.

This unique jigsaw puzzle should be titled “Lawrence Recreation Center,” with Lawrence residents and Lawrence city commissioners given the responsibility of fitting the various pieces together to end up with an attractive, workable, efficient and affordable “picture” that will meet the needs of the city.

The “pieces” of this puzzle do not number in the hundreds or thousands, but how this puzzle is put together will affect hundreds of thousands of individuals.

Various parts of the puzzle could be colored or shaped to portray their degree of interest or significance in the overall recreation center. The players are:

• Duane Schwada, a successful Lawrence developer known as a tough negotiator but someone who always follows through on his commitments. Schwada initially offered the city, free of charge, 50 acres at the northwest corner of Sixth Street and the South Lawrence Trafficway. This was to serve as a site for the city to build a recreation center for local needs and for basketball and volleyball tournaments.

• Thomas Fritzel, a Lawrence developer, who joined the Schwada effort but was not part of the original Schwada plan. He inserted himself into the Schwada site by telling city officials if they wanted any Kansas University involvement in the project, he was the only one who could deliver KU.

• KU basketball coach Bill Self and his Assists Foundation. Self has expressed interest in helping fund and develop a large basketball complex that could accommodate regional and national high school and AAU tournaments, as well as provide a number of basketball courts for use by local residents.

• Thomas Fritzel in another role. This week, Fritzel announced he would be developing a site directly east and across the highway from Schwada’s site. This would be the location for KU track, soccer and softball facilities.

• KU Athletic Director Sheahon Zenger. Zenger and Kansas Athletics have an agreement with Fritzel to build and finance the university facilities over a 30-year period.

• The KU Endowment Association. Although no KUEA officials have made a formal announcement, Zenger has said an unnamed individual made a generous financial gift to the KUEA. The KUEA is to buy the land to be used as the location for the new KU facilities with Fritzel as the developer. It would be interesting to learn whether naming rights are included in the gift as they are in any other gifts to the KUEA.

• The residents of Lawrence. This is the largest and most important group of players in the entire recreation center story. What do Lawrence residents want? Do they want a city recreation center designed for Lawrence and area residents, particularly the young people of Lawrence? Or do they want a much larger facility and partnership with KU Athletics?

Is the location of this facility of concern to Lawrence residents? How about the cost to Lawrence taxpayers to build the center? Is it right for Kansas to dictate where and what kind of recreation facility Lawrence should have? Is it imperative that the proposed basketball complex, which would be partially funded by the Self foundation, be located near the KU athletic facilities, or could it be placed at another site? Will KU officials or Fritzel allow open bidding for their new facilities or has an agreement been made that Fritzel will be the only builder?

• Lawrence city commissioners. These five individuals will make the final decision, hopefully with one goal in mind: What is in the best interests of the ENTIRE Lawrence community and at what cost?

These are the major players, along with some of the questions surrounding the project that need to be answered. Other questions include whether it is better to have six, eight or more basketball courts in a single location or to have clusters of courts at various sites throughout the community.

Lawrence is putting together a fairly large and expensive list of projects to meet current and future needs: a new city library, $40 million for Lawrence police staff and facilities improvements, a new waste-water plant, probably new or expanded water treatment facilities and perhaps other major needs.

The KUEA is a totally independent entity, and KUEA officials have the right to allocate funds wherever they think they are in the best interest of building a better university. There are bound to be some who will question whether, in these economic times, it is better to spend money to buy land for a sports development or to spend the same money on academic and research salaries and facilities.

But it should be remembered individuals can make, and have made, generous contributions to the KUEA for specific purposes such as scholarship halls, museum acquisitions, student scholarships, faculty travel, books for the libraries — or athletic buildings or to buy land they think would be valuable for the university.

The Lawrence recreation center puzzle may now have another name to identify the development with the Zenger/Kansas Athletics involvement, but whatever the name, it will be interesting, probably fascinating, or perhaps troubling, to see how the puzzle is put together.


lawrencereporter 5 years, 8 months ago

Let me be the first to dip my toe in the (hot) water. Clearly, Sheahon Zenger holds the answers to many questions that need to be aired in public. Thomas Fritzels and Sheahons loyalty to each other is interesting to say the least. KU is dictating who builds the city's recreation center that is paid for by taxpayers and is a public facility, not a private KU building. Under Zengers direction the entire multi-million dollar KU sports complex will be built by Fritzel without considering other options, all while hiding behind the notion an anonymous donor of a unknown amount of money said it has to Fritzel or it won't happen. Where are the other donors, as the editor stated above there are many. Is this standard operating procedure at KU.

JustNoticed 5 years, 8 months ago

Come on, Dolph. Tell the truth and spare us this nonsense, "The residents of Lawrence. This is the largest and most important group of players ...".

Carol Bowen 5 years, 8 months ago

What is "affordable" when the city will be using sales tax with no end? There is no cap on the amount, or how long we will pay.

The commission has an old strategy in play: 1. Use existing funds to pay for the sports village without a vote. Ignore the original intent of the approved sales tax. Call it economic development. 2. Put the police department up for a vote. It's more likely to pass than a bond issue on the sports village. 3. Add economic development to the police department bond issue as a rider. See #1.

Now, this is somewhat facetious, but I'll bet it would be possible to use the sales tax to fund facilities for the police department.

Budgets_Smudgets 5 years, 8 months ago

How all these "pieces of the jigsaw" stuff can be legally discussed behind the scenes in dozens of secret meetings between various participants defies description and explanation. Although the Kansas Open Meetings act does have exceptions, and it is possible to discuss issues with one or two city commissioners at a time, the City Manager and city staff understand full well that "serial meetings" cannot be used to thwart the purposes of the act.

It is clear that the developers, city staff, and city commissioners are engaged collectively in an enterprise which violates the intent of the act.

The DA should involve himself in investigation of this clear violation of state law.

denmother 5 years, 8 months ago

Let's ask the DIstrict Attorney to look into the possible open meetings violations mentioned above and the conduct or unethical conduct of the "Major Players" involved in this puzzle. Let's get mayor Bob Schumm, commissioners Mike Dever, Hugh Carter, Mike Aymx, Aaron Cromwell, city manager David Corliss, KU Athletics Director Sheahon Zenger, asst. AD Sean Lester, architects John and Paul Werner, Duane Schwada, Steve Schwada, Parks and Rec staff, Thomas Fritzel, Dru Fritzel, president of KU Endowment and Mike Stultz. Put them all under oath and get to the bottom of this fiasco. The pieces of the puzzle won't fit together, the "Major Players" will be forced to be truthful, the truth will astound us all.

took_the_money_and_ran 5 years, 8 months ago

A lotta ins, lotta outs, lotta what-have-you's. And, uh, lotta strands to keep in my head, man. Lotta strands in old Duder's head. Luckily I'm adhering to a pretty strict, uh, drug regimen to keep my mind limber.

Kendall Simmons 5 years, 8 months ago

What a really odd column.

Seems pretty obvious to me that Dolph seems most interested in knowing who this anonymous donor is. It's driving him nuts not knowing. (He also tells us that he like Duane Schwada and doesn't like Thomas Fritzel.)

Big whoop.

If KU wants to build their facility where they want to build it and with whom they want to build it, then let them. Again...big whoop.

This whole "if we build it, they will come" giant complex to attract regional competitions has been nonsense from the beginning. That's a for-profit developer's dream...NOT a project designed to help the City of Lawrence provide recreational facilities to the residents of Lawrence.

Plus it was incredibly obvious, pretty much from day one, that KU was not interested in partnering in the original proposal. Indeed, I still am puzzled as to why any of the Commissioners thought otherwise. But, hey...maybe they got fooled by Thomas Fritzel :-)

Perhaps now we can focus on providing appropriate recreational facilities to the residents of Lawrence? And not worry about regional tournaments? Not worry about KU? Not do anything but focus on the RESIDENTS! The people who actually live here and who would actually use these facilities.

We need to get over these delusions of grandeur. As much as Dolph is being driven nuts by not knowing the name of some KU donor, that does NOT have anything to do with the "Lawrence recreation center puzzle"...because KU should no longer have any role in what we need to do to meet our needs. OUR recreational needs are NOT those of KU. So let's move on and spend our tax dollars wisely.

psheaf2 5 years, 8 months ago

Obviously, many valid questions have been raised here. Where it may have appeared at one time as a great opportunity for the city, the University is moving forward on their own with their best interest at heart. The city should truly understand what the residents of our community really want and move forward accordingly.

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