The ongoing debate about the proposed Rock Chalk Park project, along with the city recreation center, has not presented a picture of a well-organized, well-structured and well-explained multimillion-dollar project.
Building and financing this project may be a super idea with a super design, but the manner in which it has been presented to the public leaves many damaging, questionable and suspicious marks on the developer, the city, Kansas Athletics and the Kansas University Endowment Association.
Those who teach at the university’s nationally rated department of public administration should use the Rock Chalk Park and the city recreation center as an example of how to mess up, cloud and weaken a major collaborative project involving city, private, not-for-profit and state university entities. The public has been left with the feeling their government officials have done a sloppy, careless job in carrying out their responsibilities. Also, it appears these city officials were determined to push through the project regardless of serious and troubling details.
Why didn’t all those involved in the project make an extra effort to detail every facet of the complicated deal rather than to delay, conceal and disclose details only when asked to explain this or that about various parts of the very complicated project?
In a way, it is understandable that KU Athletics, the city and the builder might be somewhat reluctant, or embarrassed, to disclose all the details. However, it has been a major surprise to see the Endowment Association not be more forthcoming as the deal details unravel.
KUEA enjoys a proud record. It is held in the highest regard and is looked upon as a national leader in the field of educational fundraising. Although it is a totally separate entity, it is one of the university’s finest assets. It has a record of being a super clean operation. And yet, KUEA officials OK’d a deal that limited the building of the project to a single contractor with no competitive bid process allowed. And KUEA officials have acknowledged they did not, and still do not, know all the details of various agreements. And there are questions relative to conflicts of interest among some KUEA officials.
This does not reflect well on a financial institution that must have, and must operate with, a squeaky clean reputation.
There are many good people involved in the recreation complex deal, individuals who have done much good for the city, the university and the state. Nevertheless, it is disappointing to watch important details emerge week after week (only when some of the players have been asked to explain their actions), details that should have been made crystal clear at the outset. It is understandable that many observers are puzzled, disappointed and suspicious of how the project has been manipulated and presented to the public.
Again, city leaders, Kansas Athletics, the Endowment Association and officials of the construction company all have been tarnished in one way or another by the manner in which they have handled or explained — or not fully explained — their respective roles and involvement in this project.