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City gives preliminary approval to development agreement for $25M recreation center

Concerned Lawrence residents Leslie Soden, center, and Laura Routh, listen from outside the full City Commission chambers as reports and estimates are presented by city officials regarding the proposed Rock Chalk Park during the City Commission meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2013, at City Hall, Sixth and Massachusetts streets. Proponents for and against construction of the facility and its various amenities spoke during the public comment portion. Soden, who running for City Commission, is opposed to the sports park plan and believes there are too many questions and concerns with the plan as it exists.

Concerned Lawrence residents Leslie Soden, center, and Laura Routh, listen from outside the full City Commission chambers as reports and estimates are presented by city officials regarding the proposed Rock Chalk Park during the City Commission meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2013, at City Hall, Sixth and Massachusetts streets. Proponents for and against construction of the facility and its various amenities spoke during the public comment portion. Soden, who running for City Commission, is opposed to the sports park plan and believes there are too many questions and concerns with the plan as it exists.

February 19, 2013

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City commission meeting visitors listen as City Manager David Corliss gives a report in support of the proposed Rock Chalk Sports Park on Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2013 at City Hall, Sixth and Massachusetts streets.

City commission meeting visitors listen as City Manager David Corliss gives a report in support of the proposed Rock Chalk Sports Park on Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2013 at City Hall, Sixth and Massachusetts streets.

Talk may soon start turning to action on a proposed $25 million, city-owned recreation center.

Lawrence city commissioners on Tuesday gave preliminary approval to a development agreement that could allow construction on the center to begin by late April.

“People are going to come here and love this place,” Mayor Bob Schumm said of the plans for a 181,000 square foot recreation center that would be adjacent to Kansas University stadiums for track and field, softball and soccer. The entire project — slated for about 90 acres north of the northeast corner of Sixth and the South Lawrence Trafficway — is called Rock Chalk Park.

Commissioners gave preliminary approval to the development plan on a 4-1 vote, with Commissioner Mike Amyx opposed. Commissioners are scheduled to give final consideration to the plan at their March 5 meeting.

Commissioners heard about an hour’s worth of public comment from a fairly evenly divided crowd — one more person spoke in favor of the plan than against it.

Supporters largely told commissioners that there was an acute need for gym space in Lawrence. The project calls for eight full court gyms, and supporters said they were confident there would be more than enough demand from youth teams and other users to make the gyms a worthwhile investment.

“It looks like we are getting a good deal in terms of other facilities, and it is meeting the needs of our community,” said Marcus Dudley, executive director of the Sporting Kaw Valley soccer association. “I’m afraid with some of the emotions that have gotten involved in this project that we have the let the ‘how’ of this project get in the way of the ‘why.’”

Several opponents questioned the size of the facility, and also said the $25 million project deserved to be put to a public vote.

Commissioners, though, stuck to the positions they have staked on the project over the past several months. Several acknowledged that the project has gone through multiple changes that have increased the number of questions among some in the public.

“Improving the project and doing the right thing dictates change on a project of this size,” City Commissioner Hugh Carter said. “If we never made any changes and just stuck to a cookie cutter project, we would have half the project that we do today.”

Amyx was the lone commissioner to lobby for a smaller project, and he said the city should again consider a 29-acre site it already owns near Wakarusa and Overland drives. Amyx also came out in favor of a citywide election on the issue.

A majority of commissioners, though, said the public adequately decided the issue as part of a 1994 sales tax vote that called for the sales tax revenues to be used for recreation projects, among other items.

If commissioners give final approval to the project on March 5, plans for the recreation center — which also will include an indoor turf field, walking track, fitness area and other amenities — could be ready to distribute to potential bidders in late March. Architects are estimating the city could be ready to award a bid — which will use the city’s standard bidding process — on April 23.

Commissioners will use the next two weeks to review new documents related to the deal. That includes agreements that Lawrence developer Thomas Fritzel and his Bliss Sports, LLC have made with KU entities to develop and operate the university’s portion of Rock Chalk Park. Commissioners said they would further review those documents but had not yet seen any significant concerns with those agreements.

Comments

Richard Heckler 1 year, 1 month ago

$31 million dollars is too much money for one neighborhood rec center. The cost of the existing rec centers were build for about $7 million tax dollars.

Why should new west Lawrence be subjected to preferential treatment?

North Lawrence has been around for several decades longer yet still has no rec center per se. What's up with that? Why is North Lawrence being subjected to discrimination?

New west Lawrence has more miles of hike and bike trails than any other neighborhood in Lawrence, Kansas. Why is east Lawrence being subjected to discrimination?

Why do the tax dollars flow to new west Lawrence so easily?

1

bebeeh 1 year, 1 month ago

I really wish the comments were not anonymous . You know it is difficult to respect any view.

0

Richard Heckler 1 year, 1 month ago

The sewer plant project is more pork barrel for the real estate movers and shakers as is this field house project.

Too many have yet to realize their "boom town inflated real estate sales" died when the banks got caught participating in a mammoth fraud venture that put millions out of work.

I speculate that many many many in Lawrence do not realize the market value of their home is way less that mortgage debt.

Considering the total cost will be more than 31 million no matter how the picture is painted why not build a neighborhood rec center in NW with 3 gyms, North Lawrence with two gyms, and Southeast Lawrence with 2 gyms ? This is going to come up. Spend an estimated 11 million on each each facility.

Why drop 31 million tax $$$$$$$ in one neighborhood for one rec center?

1

toe 1 year, 1 month ago

A city wide vote on this project would easily pass. No need to waste the effort of a vote. Every tax increases passes. Lawrence is a socialist enclave. It is what it is. It is time to move on to the next indignation. New sewer plant anyone?

1

Richard Heckler 1 year, 1 month ago

Let them know!!!

Mayor Bob Schumm schummfoods@gmail.com Home (785) 842-6729 Work (785) 842-7337

Vice Mayor Michael Dever mdever@sunflower.com (785) 550-4909

Commissioner Hugh Carter hughcarter@sunflower.com (785) 764-3362

Commissioner Mike Amyx mikeamyx515@hotmail.com Home (785) 843-3089 Work (785) 842-9425

Commissioner Aron E. Cromwell aroncromwell@gmail.com (785) 749-6020

2

msezdsit 1 year, 1 month ago

And the rich get richer. Who could know.

3

Bob Forer 1 year, 1 month ago

I didn't read this particular article as it appeared to be too long. I think I will wait until it written up in condensed form in the next edition of "Amazing but True Stories."

0

LadyJ 1 year, 1 month ago

You know, this brings back memories of the Riverfront mall. There was strong opposition to the building of the mall. The commissioners said retailers would be fighting to get in and money would flow. All the hype about how Lawrence would reap untold benefits. Yeah, we all see how that worked out.

11

Stain 1 year, 1 month ago

Someone should file a lawsuit on behalf of the taxpayers of Lawrence.

7

Phil Minkin 1 year, 1 month ago

I have been against having this mega-recenter and the RCP and think we would be better off with a slightly less ambitious project near Free State that could be enlarged if demand warranted. This would allow for upgrades in existing site and the possibility of another facility at some future date. That being said there were very strong arguments in favor. largely based on projected use. I think that even a mega-center at the Free State location make more sense due to it's accessibility to people able to walk or bus there.

5

Stain 1 year, 1 month ago

Why is the city doing business with a known crook.

Let him pay back Junction City before he asks anything from the taxpayers of Lawrence.

The city commissioners are doing wrong by the public.

7

i_read_things 1 year, 1 month ago

The arguments by proponents seem to be: add gym space; free up neighborhood rec centers from current burden; economic development (being regional draw); the collaboration gets us all more for our money. Like it or not, opponents of the proposal did not address these arguments very well in primarily asserting: we cannot trust Fritzel or the commission (Fritzel is evil and the commission is hiding the details from us); "why does it have to be on west side of town"; we elected this commission, but since they may not go my way, we should all vote.

2

Richard Heckler 1 year, 1 month ago

The ballot should read.

One large field house

OR

3 equitable neighborhood rec centers

6

Cant_have_it_both_ways 1 year, 1 month ago

We could have this rec center for the cost of the new library and one years funding of the empT.

0

pizzapete 1 year, 1 month ago

"A majority of commissioners, though, said the public adequately decided the issue as part of a 1994 sales tax vote that called for the sales tax revenues to be used for recreation projects, among other items." It's nice to know that we decided to build this twenty-five million dollar facility nearly twenty years ago before the economy collapsed, our houses lost value, our property taxes went through the roof, and our roads, sewers, and other infrastructure fell apart. Could it be that the 1994 sales tax vote was a vote to maintain and improve the facilities that we already have? And what other items, "among other items", might that sales tax be used for? Might those "other items" be things like our police and fire departments who are also in need of being maintained and improved upon after twenty years as well?

8

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 1 year, 1 month ago

It's probably no coincidence that the only commissioner who voted against this is also the only one currently standing for election.

4

fu7il3 1 year, 1 month ago

It's nice to know that a vote from 19 years ago can circumvent citizens having any say about a twenty-five million dollar expenditure. I was fourteen and living in a different state. I had a whole lot to do with that decision.

“I’m afraid with some of the emotions that have gotten involved in this project that we have the let the ‘how’ of this project get in the way of the ‘why.’”

This is asinine. The how is the most important part. I would like a new car, why? It would be more reliable, and I would look cool. I would like a new house, why? I would live more comfortably, and I would look cool. The things that keep me from doing these things are the how's, as in how am I going to pay for it? How would those purchases affect the rest of my life?

The how is the most important part of this whole thing, because it is the how that is going to financially drown us. We all have things we would like to have that wouldn't be smart decisions.

9

MichaelARost 1 year, 1 month ago

I was at the meeting as well and gave a brief statement and asked for a city wide vote. It was clear from the beginning of the meeting that the commissioners (besides Amyx) were already in support of the project. When they asked questions of Mr. Corliss were actually just giving him an opportunity to explain an aspect of the project that he previously hadn't.

It was also clear from the presentation that this project is about a "Regional" rec center, not a community rec center. One of the design highlights was that a large portion of the building could be "shut down" during the week when no one was using it.

Essentially we are paying $10 million for a community rec center and an additional $15 million for a tourist attraction. Plus all the additional costs associated with operating a larger facility.

12

Karl_Hungus 1 year, 1 month ago

I like Mike!! If any of the cats running for City C read this, you will NOT get my vote if you green light this malarkey...it starts with one....

0

Richard Heckler 1 year, 1 month ago

Here's another scenario that might come back to bite taxpayers in the butt. This one gets built.

There is an equity issue no matter what and this new giant facility will not make that go away.

That still leaves North Lawrence and Southeast Lawrence without a rec center. Both have had a major influx of population and still growing. SE Lawrence does have Prairie Park Nature Center however athletic events cannot be scheduled.

There is an equity issue no matter what and this new giant facility will not make that go away.

WE taxpayers know this field house scenario will cost we taxpayers more than $31 million after all infrastructure is installed etc etc etc. Traffic Lights/water lines etc etc get expensive.

Considering the total cost will be more than 31 million no matter how the picture is painted why not build a neighborhood rec center in NW with 3 gyms, North Lawrence with two gyms, and Southeast Lawrence with 2 gyms ? This is going to come up. Spend an estimated 11 million on each each facility.

Schedule local athletic events according to where most team members reside.

Jumping in a car to drive across town is not practical thinking. Not any longer. 29 cents a gallon polluting gasoline went bye bye bye some time ago. A ton of people in Lawrence do not bring home $60,000 or more in wages such that a lot of the loudest promoters do and some are on a tax dollar payroll.

In fact it seems this 1994 sales tax money was to provide "neighborhood" rec centers. SE Lawrence is going to want a swimming pool one day.

8

irvan moore 1 year, 1 month ago

i hope mr. dever didn't hurt his arm patting himself on the back at last nights commission meeting

3

jafs 1 year, 1 month ago

In another article on this topic, it's clear that Fritzel lied about how the rec facilities will be run, not disclosing his company's ability to run concessions and charge for parking. When those were made public, he wouldn't comment on it.

That alone should disqualify him from any partnerships with the city, especially ones that involve any sort of tax abatements, incentives, etc.

10

Cindy Wallace 1 year, 1 month ago

Hmmmm.....would seem the Mayor/Commissioners have not yet read the most recent article regarding Fritzel/KU agreements...Ha!

4

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 1 year, 1 month ago

“I’m afraid with some of the emotions that have gotten involved in this project that we have the let the ‘how’ of this project get in the way of the ‘why.’”


More accurately, for the supporters, the end justifies the means, and therefore requires the trampling of what the public at large may think about this project and the 1/2% surcharge that they'll be paying on nearly every item they buy for the next 20 years, for the exclusive benefit of a very narrow sliver of the city's population.

9

leftylucky 1 year, 1 month ago

This building is twice the size of Allen field house.

1

frankfussman 1 year, 2 months ago

Amyx spoke up saying that he thought this measure should go to a city-wide vote.

6

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