Archive for Sunday, February 17, 2013

Lawrence not alone in considering regional recreation center, researcher says

February 17, 2013


Lawrence is thinking big, and it is not alone.

Bill Beckner, a research manager for the National Recreation and Park Association, spends his time trying to help people understand trends in the recreation industry.

These days, one is easy to spot: Extra-large regional recreation centers, like the $25 million, 181,000-square-foot center Lawrence is contemplating.

“They can be a really good deal,” Beckner said, if the centers can provide a healthy lifestyle for residents and attract people to a community.

But Beckner said communities that are hoping to attract a number of large tournaments and events will have to work hard to do it. “It is a very competitive business to be in,” he said.

Lawrence officials are counting on about 32 events a year to use its proposed regional recreation center. Lawrence's basketball history and Kansas University’s success in the sport are expected to help attract tournaments and other events that would help pay for the operating costs of the center.

City officials commissioned a study that estimated the indoor center could generate about $7.6 million a year in spending in the local economy, if it attracts the projected number of events.

Beckner said Lawrence’s 32-event figure isn’t out of the question. “They might be able to do that,” he said. “But they had better be hooked up with the convention and visitors bureau in a real strong way.”

City Manager David Corliss said the city envisions a joint effort between the city’s Parks and Recreation Department and the Lawrence Convention and Visitors Bureau to book tournaments and other sporting events at the center.

Beckner said many communities are looking at the potential to build recreation facilities that not only serve their residents but also work as an economic development tool. He said he has been working with officials of a Minnesota town of 30,000 people that is contemplating a facility of 145,000 square feet.

A private development group in Wichita is moving forward on a 65,000-square-foot, 12-gym facility that it anticipates will attract regional and national tournaments. The center, which is applying for STAR bond financing from the state, would be attached to a hotel, water park and major retail development.

Beckner, who wasn’t aware of the plans in Lawrence, said all the activity makes for an interesting time in the industry. He said there are sure to be winners and losers in the latest trend.

“I have done a lot of feasibility studies on that stuff,” Beckner said. “You have to be real serious to make it work. Every event out there is contested at this point, and by several groups. And there is not a lot of money in it to begin with. You have to have the hotel and restaurant space to make it work.”


Clint Church 5 years ago

It is amazing that we are in a recession and everyone is spending money on these things. If they want to spend money, there are many other things to spend it on.

vuduchyld 5 years ago

double post...

But I guess while I'm editing, I should make clear that I'm certainly not arguing that this Center is a great idea. I think that it might very well not be, in fact. The interview with Beckner confirms that there is NOT some ready-made, automatic market to tap for events and tournaments.

The "if we build it they will come" theory might work in movies, but seldom in real life.

pace 5 years ago

What a waste of money and focus.

COjayrocks 5 years ago

All opinions are welcomed but think its time for a different opinion to be added to the comments section of the LJWorld. I think what really would give this project legs is the one thing the city has to offer that none of these other competing towns do: KU. KU has hosted the Jayhawk Invitational for many years, and did so in town for many years until the tournament outgrew Lawrence's facilities. Teams were playing in every gym around town along with Haskell and Eudora. Lawrence couldn't support it so it had to move. Why move it out of town? Now that the gym space will be available it will come back to its rightful place in Lawrence along with many others to follow. This is why people are betting on this project to succeed because the precedent is already there.

But the biggest reasons tournaments like these will always come to Lawrence is the basketball tradition. People love to see the St Andrews of modern basketball, Allen Fieldhouse. They. Want to see Naismiths grave. They will want to see the original rules of basket ball (now that they are in town) and they will want to explore the booth hall of athletics. Now, kids will want to compete here. Some of the best players in the country compete in the Jayhawk invitational but now the tournament was moved to kc so those players aren't exploring Lawrence or spending their money here anymore. Volleyball, soccer, girls basketball will follow and people will fall I love with this community for the same reasons we all did.

fu7il3 5 years ago

I think you are seriously overestimating the draw of KU compared to hotels, restaurants, and things of that nature. Outside of Jayhawk fans, KU isn't nearly as big of a deal.

Pepe 5 years ago

Agree with fu7il3. No one besides an avid KU fan is going to care about seeing Naismith's grave, the rules of basketball or the Booth hall of athletics and the avid KU fans will still come regardless of whether or not the rec center is built.

COjayrocks 5 years ago

I think you are seriously underestimating Lawrence's pull as a basketball and recreational hub. It has PROVEN to be successful and outgrew the city.

fu7il3 5 years ago

Outgrew it how?

Lawrence is a great, fun place if you are an adult. If you are a kid and live here, there are great recreation programs. However, if you are a family coming in to Lawrence for a tournament, the tournament ends for the day at five and what do you do? The historic downtown shops are all closed or closing. Nothing is open except for restaurants and bars, and walking down Mass St., visitors begin to notice Lawrence has its share of homeless, which makes some visitors with families uncomfortable about their safety, right or wrong. You can't take your kids to Free State for a beer and then a concert at the Granada.

You could go to Booth, but that closed at five, as well, which also eliminates the future home of the rules of basketball as an attraction to see, and lets face it, even if you do make it to Booth, you'll see it all in less than an hour.

You can't get into Allen Fieldhouse to see the court, so the best you can hope for is a picture with the statue outside, which will take about two minutes. If there is a game that night, it's sold out and you can't afford scalped tickets. There are no hotels near the proposed recreation center, and very few restaurants, and nothing to do with a family once you get done for the evening. What are you supposed to do? Go eat at McDonald's and hang out in Walmart?

If Lawrence is a recreational hub, why is it that after immediately after every basketball game, I-70 and K-10 are jammed with cars trying to get out of here? They beg people to go to other athletic events in town, yet attendance is always scarce. As for being a basketball town, the women's team's crowd seems smaller this year, even with an improved team.

Men's basketball is literally the only thing that is a consistent draw, and that is only on game days, and that is only Jayhawk fans or fans of the opposing team. Those can't grow, because the Fieldhouse only holds seventeen thousand people. The men's basketball team has proven to be successful. Nothing else has.

Now, sometimes there is a special event of some sort that is kid-friendly, but it isn't 32 weeks a year. I love this town, but thinking people are just going to bring events here because "we are Lawrence!" is ridiculous. It's not like these kids are going to be playing the games in Allen Fieldhouse. You cannot assume that KU alone is a big enough draw to bring the quantity of events here that will be needed to pay for this thing.

COjayrocks 5 years ago

Dramatic. The Jayhawk Invitational was moved out of Lawrence because the community could not meet the gym space requirement to host the number of teams registered. It is now held in Olathe.

The championship game was always played in Allen Fieldhouse (contrary to your statement), and I can speak from experience, it was the highlight of my childhood when I got to play on the court for the first, and only, time. In fact, my family was from out of state and this was the AAU tournament that we always highlighted in our calendar as a family vacation weekend and I still have very fond memories of going out to eat with my teammates, staying in hotels in lawrence, and playing against other teams from out of state. I am sorry if you feel that Lawrence is a one-trick pony but this is a place that families will always want to bring their kids even if you continue to have a pessimistic view of our community.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years ago

So, we're supposed to spend $25 million (at least) on a gym that will allow a bunch of out-of-town folks to live out a fantasy one weekend out of the year? Sorry, but you'll need to fulfill your fantasy at someone else's expense.

fu7il3 5 years ago

I don't know how you would consider it pessimistic. I said there is nothing to do but go out to eat and stay at the hotel, which is what you apparently did. I said Lawrence was great for adults. I love it. Bars, good restaurants, theaters, art galleries, museums, and all sorts of things. The rec center has some good youth programs. None of that is pessimistic. However, I am pessimistic about a project with a high failure rate when we cannot compete with attractions in other areas.

melott 5 years ago

This article and others like it make it clear that this project is not designed as a place for people to go and get some exercise. It is an entertainment facility, like the high school football fields, and it is designed to make money for developers, hotel and restaurant owners, etc.

COjayrocks 5 years ago

...and the city. It has much higher revenue potential as a entertainment venue to GO ALONG with providing the city its required functionality.

msezdsit 5 years ago

"City officials commissioned a study"

Thats like your mother commissioning a study on you, guess how that comes out.

Phil Minkin 5 years ago

These rec centers are like the outlet malls of several years ago. When they first appeared they were very popular and did quite well. Then the sprang up like mushrooms after a rain, and lost their unique quality, hence the 2 failures in Lawrence and others across the country. We're in the process of building a future white elephant. Let's stick to a very good community rec center near Free State .

Budgets_Smudgets 5 years ago

There are actually THREE different proposals around Wichita for similar centers (two in addition to the one identified in the article.)

Richard Heckler 5 years ago

" And there is not a lot of money in it to begin with. You have to have the hotel and restaurant space to make it work.”

This spells millions of tax $$$$$$$$ of local corporate welfare in order for motel/hotel owners to make money. Motels/hotels will be mostly empty 5 days a week and sometimes 7 days a week in Lawrence,Kansas.

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