Archive for Sunday, January 27, 2013

Lawrence City Commission candidates explain views on proposed $25M recreation center

January 27, 2013


Several Lawrence city commissioners have said they’re confident a majority of residents support a plan to build a $25 million regional recreation center in northwest Lawrence, even though the project won’t be put up for a citywide vote.

The upcoming Lawrence City Commission election may provide a clue about whether their sentiment is correct.

The Journal-World this week found that the field of City Commission candidates is fairly evenly divided on the project that would build a 181,000-square-foot recreation center, lighted tennis courts and other amenities adjacent to the proposed Rock Chalk Park development that will house Kansas University track, soccer and softball facilities.

Of the nine City Commission candidates interviewed by the Journal-World, four of them — Mike Amyx, Scott Criqui, Michael Rost and Leslie Soden — expressed significant reservations about the size, scope or financial aspects of the project.

The remaining five — Judy Bellome, Rob Chestnut, Jeremy Farmer, Reese Hays and Terry Riordan — either expressed various levels of support or were noncommittal about the project.

Candidates were fairly united on the idea that the city had a shortage of indoor recreation space but were split on whether the city should address those needs through a large regional recreation center or through a more traditional neighborhood center.

Candidates also were divided on whether the recreation center issue will become a major issue in the upcoming City Commission campaign, which will have a Feb. 26 primary election to narrow the field from 11 to six. Three commissioners will be chosen by voters in the April 2 general election.

The current group of city commissioners have indicated they may decide whether to move forward on the project in mid-February. And that has caused some candidates to speculate that by April the issue won’t weigh heavily on the minds of voters.

“I think by the time the campaigns get going, people will know more details about the project and will be more comfortable with it,” Riordan said. “I don’t see it as a big ongoing issue, but I think it is a big issue right now.”

Others, though, said without a citywide vote on the issue, many voters may use the City Commission elections to express their opinions on the project.

“I think this issue is really going to get people engaged, involved and reading about the City Commission candidates,” Rost said. “I think they may not be able to do anything about this project, but they can put people on the City Commission to ensure this type of process won’t happen again.”

Here’s a look at each candidate’s position on the recreation center. Attempts by the Journal-World this week to reach candidates Nicholas Marlo and William Olson weren’t successful.

Mike Amyx

For Amyx, a downtown barbershop owner and the lone City Commission incumbent in this year’s race, the size and cost of the proposed recreation center weigh heavy on his mind.

“I believe a more neighborhood-size facility would have been good for the northwest area of town,” Amyx said. “It would have been a better fit for Lawrence at this time.”

Amyx said he’s also concerned the size of the facility — which is proposed to have eight full size basketball courts, an indoor turf field, gymnastics area, wellness center, walking track and other amenities — will create operating costs that create a strain on the city’s budget. City officials have estimated the fees and facility rentals generated at the facility will fall $300,000 to $350,000 short of covering the operating expenses of the building. The city is projecting that it will have adequate reserves in its sales tax collections to cover that annual shortfall, but Amyx said it makes him uncomfortable.

“That expected shortfall tells me that I need to see a project that is going to be closer to paying for itself,” Amyx said.

Amyx also said he doesn’t support the proposed bidding procedure for the project. The building, as proposed, would be built by the Kansas University Endowment Association, on behalf of the city. KU Endowment is proposing a bidding process that would deviate from the city’s standard open bidding process.

KU Endowment would invite selected companies to bid, with the understanding that an entity controlled by Lawrence businessman Thomas Fritzel, who is helping finance the KU portion of Rock Chalk Park, would have a chance to match any low bid.

“My particular feeling is that because public funds are to be used for the project, it should be bid in a traditional way,” Amyx said. “That would be my preference. That is the way the public would know if it is getting the best value for its dollar.”

On the issue of whether the project should be put to a citywide vote, Amyx recently voted with his other four city commissioners against the idea. But Amyx voted with the caveat that if the public were to present a sizable petition asking for a vote, he would support placing the issue on the ballot.

Judy Bellome

Bellome, the retired CEO of Lawrence’s Visiting Nurses Association, said she sees a lot of positives with having a regional recreation center that would be adjacent to approximately $50 million worth of KU facilities, such as the track and field stadium, soccer field and softball stadium.

She said as member of several Parks and Recreation classes, she’s noticed crowded conditions and thinks now is the time for the city to consider a recreation project, especially if Fritzel or other private entities are willing to help the project.

“I like the partnership idea,” Bellome said. “I’ve always been someone who looks to collaborate.”

But Bellome said she still would like a little more explanation about how the project will fit in with other city priorities.

“I am not opposed to the size of the facility,” Bellome said. “But I am concerned about the $25 million going into it. What does that mean we won’t be able to fund?

“It sounds like a very worthy project, but I have learned over the years that you prioritize what you need most.”

Bellome said she believed the bidding process can work, as long as the city is open with the public about the process. She said given the fact that KU Endowment and Fritzel were teaming up to donate about 26 acres of ground to the city for the project, it was understandable that they would want to have some control over the building of the facility.

“As long as that is disclosed and it is all out there for the people to see,” Bellome said. “That is a big donation.”

Bellome also said she didn’t think the project needed to go to a citywide vote. She said she had concerns about the multifaceted project being boiled down to a simple up-or-down vote.

“I’ve heard a lot of people say they are not opposed to the whole thing but are just opposed to parts of it,” Bellome said.

Rob Chestnut

Chestnut, the chief financial officer of a Topeka-based publishing company, said the city has fallen behind on the amount of indoor recreation space.

“There isn’t any doubt that we have a chronic shortage of gym space,” Chestnut said.

But he stopped short of declaring the proposed regional recreation center a good deal for the city. And he said a future City Commission likely won’t be asked to make that decision.

“I think it will be the job of a future City Commission to abide by the terms of the agreements that are being crafted now,” Chestnut said. “But I don’t have a lot of information on those agreements.”

Chestnut said he has been studying the city’s sales tax fund, which is proposed to be the funding source for the 20-year debt that will be issued for the recreation center.

“I think everybody acknowledges it will be tight,” Chestnut said. “It will require a lot of resources out of that fund, particularly for the years between now and 2016.”

On the proposed bidding process, Chestnut said he would like to know more details, but he said he does understand why KU Endowment officials would want to use a bidding process more typical of what the association normally uses.

“When you are working with a partner, you have to work with them on all the terms of a project, and sometimes you have to blend processes,” Chestnut said. “I think that is what is happening here.”

Chestnut said he thought it was appropriate for the project to move forward without a citywide vote. He said the project is the type of project discussed with voters in 1994, and he noted the sales tax was designed to remain in effect for perpetuity.

“Philosophically, this is one of the reasons I believe in sunsetting sales taxes,” Chestnut said. “But they didn’t sunset this sales tax.”

Scott Criqui

Criqui, an executive with Lawrence’s Trinity In-Home Care, believes the city does need more indoor recreation space.

“Do we need a regional recreation center, though?” Criqui asked. “That’s is hard to gauge. It has not been so transparent whether there is a need for that.”

Criqui said he has concerns the city seems to be relying heavily on the results of a 1994 sales tax election that authorized spending on recreation projects in the community. That’s the proposed funding source for the recreation center.

But legally, that 1994 vote also allowed the sales tax dollars to be used on other governmental projects, and he said he’s uncertain whether the community has had a true discussion about how to spend the sales tax money.

“I think there is an interesting conversation about priorities to be had,” Criqui said. “I think we are basing this off of priorities from a 1994 vote. Do we really need to spend all of this completely on the recreation facility?”

Criqui also is concerned about the proposed bidding process.

“I don’t think many people are in favor of that, including myself,” Criqui said. “Transparency is what we expect from a public process, and I’m not sure we have had enough of that yet.”

On the issue of a citywide vote, Criqui said he’s not yet ready to call for one. He said he would support a vote if citizens started a significant petition drive calling for a vote.

“If a group gathered 3,000 signatures or something like that, it would tell me that there is some concern out there,” Criqui said. “But I haven’t heard of anyone who has done that yet.”

Jeremy Farmer

Farmer, the executive director of the Lawrence food bank Just Food, said he thinks most community members support the general idea of a regional recreation center.

“What I’m hearing from most people is they aren’t as upset about the project as they are about the process,” Farmer said.

Farmer said he can see the benefits of a regional center that could draw youth tournaments and other sporting events that would attract visitors to town.

“Our community is incredible,” Farmer said. “The question I’ve been asking other people is why wouldn’t we want to share that with citizens of other communities?”

On the bidding process, Farmer said he can understand how KU Endowment is seeking a modified bidding process.

“Regardless of how it is done, it needs to be transparent to the citizens,” Farmer said. “Ultimately, if the city was building this on its own, it would have a different process. But because KU Endowment is propelling this forward, they have the ability to choose the contractor they want. This really will boil down to how open everyone is with each other.”

Farmer said he can see both sides of the issue on calling for a citywide vote on the project.

“But I think most of the objection boils down to process, and that is a tough question to put to a vote,” Farmer said.

Reese Hays

Hays, chief litigation counsel for the Kansas Board of Healing Arts in Topeka, thinks most people do want a new recreation center in Lawrence. He’s not sure they want a 181,000-square-foot center, though.

“Can the city afford this, and is that what the citizens want?" Hays asked. “An early ’90s tax vote doesn’t really give a clear picture of what the people want today.”

Hays said he wants more details to emerge about the proposed bidding process and the reasons behind it. He noted the entire project is seeking a tax abatement from City Hall because leaders argue the Rock Chalk Park essentially will operate like a government-owned property.

“If this is going to be treated like a government project, then the transparency needs to be there,” Hays said.

Hays said he is in support of putting the project to a citywide vote.

“The reason I’m running is because I want to give the voice to the people,” Hays said. “To rely upon an early ’90s vote as the reason to move forward on a very large project seems problematic.”

Hays said he’s not sure the project would win voter approval.

“I think it is an open question,” Hays said. “When I talk to people about it, they have a lot of questions.”

Terry Riordan

Riordan, a Lawrence pediatrician, said there is “no doubt” in his mind that Lawrence needs more indoor exercise space.

“I see children come into the office everyday who are too heavy,” Riordan said. “I hear from parents about lack of gym space and how their children only have six games in a season.”

Riordan said he sees the benefits of having a large facility that is adjacent to other KU sports facilities.

“I think this will be a destination,” Riordan said. “People love coming to Lawrence. I’ve talked to too many people who are going out of town for facilities like this. Lawrence has everything else; it just needs something like this.”

Riordan said the $25 million price tag deserves close study, but he believes it has the potential to be a good investment for the community.

“Sometimes there is a unique opportunity to do something that benefits a lot of people,” Riordan said. “If you have foresight and the analysis says it makes sense, you should do it.”

On the bidding process, Riordan said he is becoming more comfortable with the proposal as he learns more. He said the fact KU Endowment will invite bids from at least two other competent builders helps. So too does the city’s plans to hire its own construction monitor who will inspect the building process and report back to the city.

Riordan also said as more details emerge about the project, he is comfortable with the project moving forward without a citywide vote because he is confident city commissioners are thoroughly studying the issue.

Michael Rost

Rost, an attorney for a Topeka insurance company, said he has multiple concerns with the proposed project.

He said it is troubling the city has approved public incentives for at least two hotel projects — The Oread and the proposed Marriott in downtown Lawrence — in recent years, and now the city is being asked to build a regional recreation center that will help fill hotel rooms.

“It looks like one hand is shaking the other,” Rost said. “If the real goal is to provide recreation services to people who live here, I think smaller and more centrally located makes more sense. If they are trying to bring in tourism and big events, I get that, but I think you have to do a better job of showing how that is going to work.”

Rost also said he has heard “no good explanation” why the city shouldn’t follow its long-standing bid policy, and he is concerned about how information on the project has emerged in the last few months.

“All this information is just coming out in dribbles,” Rost said. “It seems like they feel like they are going to get this through anyway, so why waste time explaining it.”

He also said he is concerned that the city hasn’t put the project to a citywide vote. He believes the decision to forgo an election is part of a strategy to ask voters for a tax increase to fund core services — such as the infrastructure sales tax — while using existing tax dollars to fund projects that would fare questionably at the ballot box.

“If you are going to do this, you should have a tax increase associated with it, and then you should go the voters and ask for their approval,” Rost said.

Leslie Soden

Soden, the owner of a Lawrence pet care business, said she thinks the city is moving forward with a very large project without sufficient community buy-in.

“There still isn’t really citywide, community buy-in on this idea of a regional recreation center,” Soden said. “There already is buy-in on the idea of a neighborhood recreation center. I think everyone really likes that idea.”

Soden, though, said she is supportive of the KU portion of Rock Chalk Park and thinks those facilities will be a “huge boon for the community.”

Soden said the proposed bidding process for the facility is drawing major concern from many of the people she’s talking to.

“To me, that’s the main negative of the project,” Soden said. “It is what makes the project look fishy, and it is why some people are walking around calling it a backroom deal.”

Soden also said she is concerned the city hasn’t done enough analysis to determine if the recreation center really can attract as many tournaments and usage fees as the city is projecting.

“There is a risk there,” she said.

She said the city also is taking a risk by not putting the project to a citywide vote.

“I understand why the city doesn’t want to have a vote, but they need to have a vote,” Soden said. “For the next 20 years, there will be people pointing to that project as the root of all evil at City Hall because they didn’t vote on it.”


David Holroyd 5 years, 4 months ago

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.

Catalano 5 years, 4 months ago

You have to stop all of your complaining starting now until after the general election. You did not sign up to run and you would have had the most beautiful yard sign ever. I am so sad.

Catalano 5 years, 4 months ago

I did my part:

One-Eyed Wilbur for City Commission!

One-Eyed Wilbur for City Commission! by Catalano

Keith 5 years, 4 months ago

“I think by the time the campaigns get going, people will know more details about the project and will be more comfortable with it,” Riordan said.

What are these details and why are they not public at this time?

Richard Heckler 5 years, 4 months ago

Children over weight? What and how much are they being fed. Make exercise fashionable in the neighborhood.

Indoor facilities? I say set up work out space in the home and see how that works. If we notice the most popular work out space is out doors on bikes,walking and jogging and it is available as we speak.

Setting up a work out space in the home will cost a whole bunch less than tax increases. In fact making $800 tax dollars to each resident would very definitely cost taxpayers a ton less money.... and it would be making excellent use of YOUR tax dollars. City Hall could provide vouchers for exercise equipment = fiscal responsible approach.

Now what is taking place at the public school gym? Children are not getting a daily workout of some sort? We certainly did 5 days a week at public schools through high school. Plenty of exercise at recess as well.

flyin_squirrel 5 years, 4 months ago

Merry, good to see you and Leslie Soden have the same views of Lawrence, it at least makes me know there is one less candidate to study up on.

KiferGhost 5 years, 4 months ago

I"m sure you vote for whoever the chambercrats tell you to. It is obvious the issues aren't important to you.

KiferGhost 5 years, 4 months ago

Don't know him but I've never seen Merrill come on to make comments about other posters and simply posts relevant facts. You on the other hand bring no facts and just snide comments about his posts.

5 years, 4 months ago

if you want to actually know what I think, please read my campaign platform at

Katara 5 years, 4 months ago

How do you not know that gym does not occur daily in public schools? It has been in the news every time an article about obesity comes up.

Recess is also being cut too. Many schools only offer 1 recess period per day.

lunacydetector 5 years, 4 months ago

i was an advocate for chestnut when he first ran...i even put his sign in my yard. after he was elected i had a major concern and called and left him a message. then i left him another message, and another, and another. he never returned one of my calls. he will not be getting my vote.

on another note, does lawrence's hierarchy not realize we the people recognize phony and cliquish? it reminds me of high school...or the local chamber of commerce.

Rob Chestnut 5 years, 4 months ago

Dear lunacy detector - I apologize for not responding to your inquiry. I do not recall the details, but I obviously fell short of the mark. If you have concerns about my position on this issue or others, please contact me now and I will ensure an appropriately timely response.

KiferGhost 5 years, 4 months ago

I thought the cute banter between chambercrats is that they never read the comment section of the jw as an excuse why cc is so ignorant of what most of Lawrence thinks. Thanks for confirming what we knew already Robbie.

William McCauley 5 years, 4 months ago

Mr. Chestnut,

You did the very same thing to me, not once, not twice, but more then three times when I tried to inform you that members of the citizen board, you help seat were lying to the commissioners and over stepping their boundaries and leading the City to a legal fight with me and the FAA for violating my civil rights and denying my legal right to access and use the Lawrence Municipal Airport.

You, just like all the others you served with and are currently serving didn't care to hear the truth or the "other side" of the story or read the documents that prove beyond a shadow of a doubt, Mr Richard Haig has been misrepresenting a great deal to the City.... why would you all of a sudden care now, hell you can't even answer multiple emails or return a phone calls of concerned citizens who really did not want to be forced in taking legal action. But well you all wanted to play hard ball..... hard ball is what you get. While I will not vote for you or any current sitting commissioners, I kind of hope you win a seat next to Mike A., Mike D. & Bob S. That way when the FAA issues it's ruling in the next few months and rule in my favor YET AGAIN.... I want to see the look on your faces when my lawyer get's done with our presentation. Good luck... NOT!

Signed William McCauley

Phil Minkin 5 years, 4 months ago

I generally didn't agree with Chestnut on most issues and don't plan to vote for him, but i will say when I emailed the commissioners, he always responded where as the other frequently didn't

Richard Heckler 5 years, 4 months ago

Criqui,Rost,Soden and Hays in the final six.

It's time for new thinkers and faces in government.

I want to know how each feels about local corporate welfare? Do wealthy investors get it or do we use it for seed money to fire up a small business venture that has a need in our community?

flyin_squirrel 5 years, 4 months ago

Wow, talk about a death warrant for those candidates! Merrill, you should never publically support a candidate because they all just lost all credibility. I would be surprised if any of them make the final 6 now.

KiferGhost 5 years, 4 months ago

Yes, keep trashing the commenter since you don't have any facts to back up the chambercrat policies.

flyin_squirrel 5 years, 4 months ago

Was "chambercrat" the word of the day somewhere? Merrill makes his own bed, so I don't have to trash him. I just feel sorry for all the candidates he is endorsing, because I don't even know them and already know if Merrill likes them, I don't.

And I am against the way this Rec Center is being handled if you look at my previous posts. But I also know anyone following Merrill's lead is headed down a deadend path.

5 years, 4 months ago

If you want to know what I think, you are welcome to visit my webpage and actually read my platform

KiferGhost 5 years, 4 months ago

Merrill posts facts and figures, appears to really offend you.

jhawk1998 5 years, 4 months ago

The City missed the boat on this one. Back before the first high school football stadium was built there should have been some community-based planning. One facility should have been built that was centrally located and provided all the communities needs for the next 50 years. We continue to suffer from day-to-day piecemeal site planning that increases community costs. don't we have some large nearly empty apartment complexes that could be converted to rec facilities? As to the doctor's comments about overweight children - how many prescriptions is he writing for these kids to get daily exercise? Isn't it true that those who workout closest to home are most likely to maintain their regimen? Be a lot cheaper to buy every child in town a jump rope.

KiferGhost 5 years, 4 months ago

A jump rope and start patrolling the streets aggressively so kids can walk and bike to school. I was amazed that many of the people racing on the streets in the morning are the ones hauling their kids to school. That kind of driving is unacceptable near schools and the areas surrounding them.

Eugehne Normandin 5 years, 4 months ago

KiferGhost you are a my Idol !!!! Why let the convenient crowd ruin a nice place for the rest of us.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 4 months ago

"But Amyx voted with the caveat that if the public were to present a sizable petition asking for a vote, he would support placing the issue on the ballot."

"On the issue of a citywide vote, Criqui said he’s not yet ready to call for one. He said he would support a vote if citizens started a significant petition drive calling for a vote."

They asked for it-- here's your chance--

jhawkinsf 5 years, 4 months ago

Thank you, Bozo. You'll be happy to know I just signed the petition.

deec 5 years, 4 months ago

You might want to also set up a facebook event to help spread the word.

Claire Williams 5 years, 4 months ago

Thanks for the link, bozo.

I created a LJW weblog about your petition here, hopefully to bring some more exposure to it.

vermont 5 years, 4 months ago

had a similar experience with Chestnut...will not get my vote.

KiferGhost 5 years, 4 months ago

Lawrence doesn't dig exercise they can do right out their front door because they claim the streets are dangerous while they drive like maniacs to the gym.

It is amazing while Lawrence has created a bizarre bike path scheme, markings for a few blocks that lead no where, paths that start and lead no where that people actually drive their bikes to the darn things, yet there is so much money they can embark and a major rec center. Anyone foolish enough to think this thing is to make Lawrence active is not being very honest. West Lawrence is designed to make people car dependent and the reason for such a large parking lot. Let's not forget that downtown is the same size it always has been but now we need more parking. Why not encourage Lawrence citizens to be active daily by walking and biking, just like what real research has shown is most effective instead of listening to pill pushing doctors tied into corporate agendas.

trashcartguy 5 years, 4 months ago

We keep being told we’ll love this once we’re given the details. I’m sorry the only detail I need is it is the proposed 20M expenditure. It doesn’t involve schools, roads, sewers, utilities etc. They put the library and the T up for a vote because they knew those would pass unlike this issue..

KiferGhost 5 years, 4 months ago

We can never question the "winners", the Self's, athletic department, no we need to listen to them and accept everything they say as the gospel because doggone it they are winners. Now let's just never mind that the athletic department has 5 past employees in prison and this scandal only became public because our developer buds got caught paying off the Junction City commissioners otherwise lew would still reign supreme. And let's not forget the developer in charge of this project has twice screwed the city over by hiding stuff from our commissioners (still must be since the candidates on the commission are still only discovering things about the project already moving forward). Yes, let's continue listening to the winners and not think about anything. Here is another winner with the same song and dance bull while he ruined other people's lives because he and the organizations backing him had the money to hire the lawyers.

kuguardgrl13 5 years, 4 months ago

I would feel much better about this entire project (the city part and the KU part) if it didn't seem so secret. KU Athletics only very recently made students aware of the project. Being a Lawrence voter, I have reservations about the Rec Center. As a student, I also have mixed feelings about the KU facilities. I know our lady athletes deserve more than what they have. But what does NCAA require that we give them? Why is this Rock Chalk Park that is so far away from campus better than remodeling what we currently have? What massive changes will they make to Memorial Stadium after the new track facility is built? Athletics sent out a survey to ticket purchasers. That survey was geared towards adults, particularly alumni. The identifier questions didn't have a good option for "I'm a student, and I don't donate tons of money". Yet I pay several thousand dollars a year to the university. But that doesn't matter because KU Athletics is effectively a separate entity from KU. Nearly 30,000 potential opinions don't matter because we don't buy season tickets for several hundreds of dollars a year and don't send KU Endowment a nice, big annual check.

Catalano 5 years, 4 months ago

I am so totally embarrassed to be a KU Alum. And they are so creepy...the way they follow you from place to place years on end. Hint: if I haven't joined now, I'm probably not going to. I cannot distinguish KU Alumni Association from KU Endowment Association from KU Athletics Association...they all seem like one creepy incestuous money-grabbing family to me. Just put AR in front of Kansas and that's what we've become.

KiferGhost 5 years, 4 months ago

Not only to the university but a good chunk of student fees go directly to that supposedly independent organization referred to as KUAC. They get to butter their bread on both sides yet golly, can't get a big donor looking for tax breaks to fund the student athletes they care so much about?

Boston_Corbett 5 years, 4 months ago

Just took a look at the petition, created by "Nick Danger" and signed by his architect buddy. I hope I didn't hurt my computer when the coffee spewed out of my nose.

I detect a Cool front approaching. Batten down the Trade Routes. Woof, woof.

bearded_gnome 5 years, 4 months ago

Amyx, Hays, Rost, represent my views on this very clearly. Soden and Criqui also partially represent my views on this neighborhood/regional combo, though I'm not saying there are "backdoor" deals on this [more on that to Ms. Soden next.]

I feel that this neighborhood rec center and regional KU hub has mission creep and mission fuzz: we aren't very clear what it is now supposed to accomplish and its mission is getting fuzzier or poorly defined. by combining the neighborhood and the regional I think we are running into some of this.

I also believe that we are now way behind fixing our infrastructure: water and sewer pipes are far behind schedule for replacement; and the other night's commish meeting it was reported as improvement that our streets are now down to being only one fifth in poor or broken condition!

we have trouble with basics but want to spend money on these less necessary things like the NW rec center and regional hub combo. yes we need more tennis courts and other rec opportunities but I think this is a very expensive way for our city to get them. and when we have trouble supplying ourselves water, we need to be more careful about our priorities.

bearded_gnome 5 years, 4 months ago

^^Soden said the proposed bidding process for the facility is drawing major concern from many of the people she’s talking to.

“To me, that’s the main negative of the project,” Soden said. “It is what makes the project look fishy, and it is why some people are walking around calling it a backroom deal.”

---Leslie Soden, if this statement means you're listening to your friend Merrill/dickie, ... when he opens his salt shaker he sees back room deals when he looks inside it! based on his posting, "backdoor" or back room deals are breaking out all the time. so, consider ...

5 years, 4 months ago

bearded_gnome, i hear what you're saying, but in reality i haven't had a conversation with merrill i think since summertime. there are people all over the city saying it looks fishy.

bearded_gnome 5 years, 4 months ago

I particularly liked:

Rost, an attorney for a Topeka insurance company, said he has multiple concerns with the proposed project.

He said it is troubling the city has approved public incentives for at least two hotel projects — The Oread and the proposed Marriott in downtown Lawrence — in recent years, and now the city is being asked to build a regional recreation center that will help fill hotel rooms.

“It looks like one hand is shaking the other,” Rost said. “If the real goal is to provide recreation services to people who live here, I think smaller and more centrally located makes more sense. If they are trying to bring in tourism and big events, I get that, but I think you have to do a better job of showing how that is going to work.”

---nicely thought through.

5 years, 4 months ago

yes i was very impressed by Rost's big picture view. i am looking forward to seeing more of his comments. :-)

JackMcKee 5 years, 4 months ago

He's clueless. Not what we need on the CC. We don't need a return to the dysfunctional three amigos days.

KiferGhost 5 years, 4 months ago

Dysfunctional? Like what we have had since has been any better?

JackMcKee 5 years, 4 months ago

With the exception of Aron Cromwell it's been much better.

KiferGhost 5 years, 4 months ago

Oh my, I see now what kind of delusion you are operating in. Yes, Jack, it has been peachy since the amigos, top notch characters looking out for the interests of Lawrence.

JackMcKee 5 years, 4 months ago

The Rec Center is about bringing people, and lots of them, to Lawrence. Lawrence, in case you missed it, is a tourist town. We lack an ocean and mountains, but what we have is KU. This is like developing a chunk of a mountain for a larger ski resort. Anyone that can't grasp the basic fundamentals of this project has no business running for City Commission.

KiferGhost 5 years, 4 months ago

Call me crazy but KU is a university first and foremost, at least it should be. Believe it or not there are many academically related activities that bring people to town as well. If you want to base growth around what is perceived to be a big money maker because you see lots of drunks that wouldn't be too wise. Lawrence could do a lot more to bring people here like the history which it is too embarrassed to promote when all the skeletons come out of the closet. But Lawrence is hardly going to be a real tourist town, mostly a weekend drive for the KC crowd and we certainly need more than that to have a strong economic base.

JackMcKee 5 years, 4 months ago

And those activities are being utilized to their fullest. Academic pursuits won't ever draw the kind of numbers athletics do. Not even close.

KiferGhost 5 years, 4 months ago

Yes, so let's build more hotels and restaurants that only operate when an event or two come to town. I'm not the economist who have done plenty of studies show that sports do not bring net benefits to the communities suckered into providing for them. We can't live on big events and need enterprises that are sure and study like all towns that are healthy. Don't let show biz blind you.

KiferGhost 5 years, 4 months ago

And quite frankly, when will we have enough sports stuff? We already spent millions on two highschool facilities and discovering afterwards that there were schools that needed repairs. Why can't people who back sports even deal with the facts and force the taxpayers into these sheninigans? If sports provided so much these people would build on their own dime. Fritzel is partnered in at least two hotels in town so he would possibly benefit from this sports thing so why do we have to help? People wonder why there are millionaire sports stars, well it is because the taxpayers subsidize so much of the expenses of the sports world.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 4 months ago

I believe that everyone who is in favor of this project should be given the ability to vote for it in a referendum in the very near future.

KiferGhost 5 years, 4 months ago

The initial vote twenty years ago with a list of projects, this not being one of them.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 4 months ago

Everything about this project is unprecedented. Therefore, it should be put to a vote.

KiferGhost 5 years, 4 months ago

We did vote on the library and the T, you may remember that. Didn't go the way you liked yet for your pet project we don't get to vote. Sounds like you don't play by the same rules.

JackMcKee 5 years, 4 months ago

It's different rules because its a fudamenraly different kind of decision.

Thinking_Out_Loud 5 years, 4 months ago

Actually, KiferGhost, I suggest we didn't need to vote on either the library or the T. Those are examples of the City Commission abrogating its decision-making authority so the Commissioners wouldn't have to be "accountable" for the results.

KiferGhost 5 years, 4 months ago

Oh yes, the rec center is suppose to be for the people of Lawrence to use to workout and should be somewhere convenient to access that doesn't require driving to the far side of town. What you are really promoting is the Fritzel sports plex used to skirt rules about recruiting, where I come from that is called deception. A proud day in KU history.

JackMcKee 5 years, 4 months ago

This all reminds me of the dustup over American Eagle, Wal Mart and Home Depot. There are some people in Lawrence that just can't help but shoot themselves in their feet.

KiferGhost 5 years, 4 months ago

Must be hard for you to walk with all those holes in your feet.

JackMcKee 5 years, 4 months ago

With arguments like Kifer's it's not hard to understand why the CC isn't giving more credence to these people. What's the precedent for a city wide referendum on a relatively minor outlay like this proposal? Unless Lawrence just wants to disband its CC and vote on every proposal. It's obvious this is just a bunch of no growth/no change ninnies that don't like the fact that it's not one of their pet projects. I'm proud of the CC for telling these people just how ridiculous they are.

KiferGhost 5 years, 4 months ago

Yeah, you got us there with your facts proving first that many of us are "no growth" and it is simply one pet project vs another. Your grandstanding when presented the facts that studies show no economic gains from these things shows that unlike let's say the city bus, this project is only a pet project which only benefits a select number of people, people who already have plenty of money to do it themselves if there is so much to gain.

JackMcKee 5 years, 4 months ago

Well I've got Bill Self, KU and the City Commission that agree with me that's it's a winner for Lawrence. You have a couple of anonymous posters on this website. The expense of operating the T dwarfs this request. Once again you've managed to make an utterly illogical and nonsensical argument.

KiferGhost 5 years, 4 months ago

Ah yes, pulling the Lance Armstrong routine. Yes, you winners always tell the truth and know what's best. But if you really want to know who is all for this it would be put to vote but you are against that so guess you aren't so sure.

KiferGhost 5 years, 4 months ago

Well your argument is you have the winners, the man that coaches a child's game for millions of dollars, the millionaire donor looking for a way to cut his taxes and benefit his family, the athletic department that has recently had employees put in prison, the developer who has recently screwed the city over a number of times but they are all winners in your book so we can't question them and believe they have the answers

KiferGhost 5 years, 4 months ago

You are the one who said it! I agree, it was ridiculous to use them as some kind of important backing on issues that go outside of the those with Selfish interests.

KiferGhost 5 years, 4 months ago

The city provides infrastructure and it should be for all to use. The car my friend is the part of the picture that is most illogical. The bus is just the city providing transportation and the reason they build the roads. Should be hard to figure that out.

JackMcKee 5 years, 4 months ago

Who said only certain residents can use it?

KiferGhost 5 years, 4 months ago

Oh and don't forget, we voted on the T, it won.

JackMcKee 5 years, 4 months ago

The T was part of a larger initiative as well, and it costs a heck of a lot more than this. Apples and oranges.

KiferGhost 5 years, 4 months ago

Well lots of things the city does will cost more than this, the new sewer system that is lurking in the background which is where the priorities should be. Those are things the city is suppose to do, not help line the pockets of developers. I know it is a foreign concept in the post Carter era.

JackMcKee 5 years, 4 months ago

If you want to vote on every project that comes up maybe you should run for the CC.

KiferGhost 5 years, 4 months ago

Every project? Is that the spin we are going to hear that a $25 million dollar questionable financing deal is demanding a vote on every project in town? What is there to hide since that is an absurd statement to make? Commissioners, Endowment, Fritzel, what is there that needs to be hidden only to be sprung on us after it is a done deal? Will the Varsity House be moved out there? Maybe an anonymous donation for a plaque? Maybe a new cellphone complex? Who knows what we have to look forward to when this is finished other than not having any of the tax money for any other projects in Lawrence that we could all use.

JackMcKee 5 years, 4 months ago

Lawrence isn't spending $25 million on this.

KiferGhost 5 years, 4 months ago

You're right, in the end it will be a lot more. Free water, free parking lot maintenance.

KiferGhost 5 years, 4 months ago

And let's not forget about all the tax exemptions and will Bliss sports pay taxes under the new Brownstain plan?

KiferGhost 5 years, 4 months ago

And we don't want to forget about that other brilliant idea our city and county are backing, the subsidized space for little ma and pa companies like Garmin, a Fortune 500 company, an Irish software company. Yeah, that is brilliant, we certainly should question them on the benefits of this sportsplex.

JackMcKee 5 years, 4 months ago

Wow 150 "signatures" which probably equates to about 25 real people. I'll give you whiners credit. You sure make a lot of noise for a couple dozen people.

KiferGhost 5 years, 4 months ago

So sure of yourself yet afraid to put it on the ballot. Why Jack, too many things we won't learn about until it is too late?

JackMcKee 5 years, 4 months ago

Because it doesn't need a general vote just because a couple of no growth namby pambies don't like it. It falls well within the scope of our elected CC duties.

JackMcKee 5 years, 4 months ago

Growing the economy and tax base are just so onerous. How do you survive?

Richard Heckler 5 years, 4 months ago

What could be the alternative for a lot fewer tax dollars?

How can Lawrence taxpayers get the best bang for our 1994 sales tax bucks and improve the quality of life for families throughout the entire community?

Construct a NW neighborhood rec center with 2-3 gyms and a walking/jogging track for public exercise probably for about $10 million. Now we have achieved shoring up the alleged lack of court space.

Connect the Burroughs Creek hike and bike path to the river levy by way off Hobbs Park through the new development in the "eastside warehouse district". A design path has been created so lets get on with it. Maybe cost $200,000.

In doing the above Lawrence,Kansas has effectively improved the quality of life for more families throughout the sales tax dollar community. And for a lot fewer tax dollars = smart spending.

This is definitely within the spirit of the 1994 sales tax that was approved by families throughout the community.

Richard Heckler 5 years, 4 months ago

Not spending $25 million on a project that will require an estimated $300,000 a year of new tax dollar spending for operations will leave a a few bucks left over for new landscaping in the "eastside warehouse district". Plus Rhode Island and Vermont in downtown are ready for some planters on the corners such that Mass Street is sporting.

Also when talk of "gateways to Lawrence impressions' are brought up why not choose massive and beautiful Kansas landscapes? Deciduous oak and maple tree forest accompanied by a wild assortment of beautiful ornamental grasses = very very low maintenance. These it seems would be more pleasant to the eyes than big box like buildings and strip malls.

vermont 5 years, 4 months ago

not at all interested in Soden. Let's hope that her biased, constricted viewpoints don't make it to the table. She does not, and probably never will, represent the Lawrence community and its DIVERSITY, values, traditions and what it needs to be at this point in history. Soden, please understand that, although it's not personal, you're not qualified to represent this community at this time. Try again in 10 years.

  • Jackson Bentley, M.D.

Thinking_Out_Loud 5 years, 4 months ago

Wow. The tone and word choices in your post certainly make it look personal.

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