City Hall

City Hall

City delays approval of Rock Chalk Park development

July 2, 2013


A little last-minute math is in order before Lawrence city commissioners sign a key development agreement for the Rock Chalk Park recreation center and sports park.

Commissioners at their Tuesday evening meeting deferred action on the agreement that will formalize the public-private partnership among the city, a Kansas University Endowment entity and a private company led by Lawrence developer Thomas Fritzel.

Instead, commissioners said they wanted staff members to add new language to the agreement that will help the city track how much contractors are spending on infrastructure at the site.

“I have been for this project the whole time, but we owe it to the public to get this (agreement) right,” said City Commissioner Jeremy Farmer, who argued that approval of the agreement should be delayed at least a week. “This is the one we can’t screw up.”

Commissioners expect to bring the agreement up for approval at next week’s meeting.

Commissioners unanimously directed staff members to contact the other parties and have two pieces of language added to the agreement. They are:

• A statement that gives the city the right to see on a monthly basis the invoices related to the construction of about $12 million of infrastructure. As it was proposed, the city only would see the invoices at the end of the project, after all the work had been completed.

• A new provision that spells out exactly what construction activities are subject to a 2.5 percent management fee that will be charged by Fritzel’s general contracting firm, which is overseeing the work. Commissioners had questions about whether a management fee was being charged for some items such as site mobilization costs, legal fees and other expenses that will be incurred by the developer.

A majority of commissioners indicated that they will be ready to sign the development agreement once those provisions are added to the agreement.

The recently-raised issue of whether the city has the legal authority to move forward with the development agreement, which includes a no-bid contract for Fritzel’s firm to build the infrastructure, did not cause much concern with commissioners. Lawrence attorney Chris Burger, an adjunct professor of construction law and litigation with the KU law school, said Monday that he thought the city was breaking its own law that requires such public projects to be bid.

But commissioners on Tuesday night heard from their own special counsel, Gary Anderson of Gilmore & Bell, that he believes the city is within its legal authority to waive the bid process.

After the meeting, City Commissioner Bob Schumm said Anderson’s blessing of the process was important because he doesn’t believe Anderson would issue an opinion on such a critical matter without a good degree of certainty.

“We are caught up in a bit of a legal debate, I guess,” Schumm said. “But he would want to err on the side of caution.”

Commissioners had approved a development agreement for the project earlier this year. But a revised development agreement was brought forward after KU basketball coach Bill Self’s Assists Foundation agreed to make a $2 million donation to the project, which will include a city-owned recreation center and a privately-owned track, softball and soccer stadiums that will be leased by Kansas Athletics.

The revised development agreement limits the amount of money the city is obligated to pay for the development to $22.5 million, down from $25 million in the previous agreement. The costs are broken down this way: $10.5 million for the construction of the 181,000-square-foot recreation center; $10.2 million for infrastructure to serve both the city and KU portions of the project; about $785,000 for the cost of the land for the recreation center; $925,000 for architecture fees.

The new development agreement also provides more details than the previous document. It provides a copy of the infrastructure construction contract. That contract will be between RCP, LLC — a private company controlled by KU Endowment — and Bliss Sports II, LLC — a development company led by Fritzel. Although the city is expected to pay for $10.2 million of the infrastructure costs -- the Assists Foundation will pay for the remaining $2 million — the city is not a party to the contract.

Commissioner Mike Amyx said that concerned him because he believes the city needs to be on the contract to ensure it can play a significant role in the construction of the infrastructure.

“My main concern is where our seat at the table is, so to speak,” Amyx said.

But other commissioners said they were fine with the arrangement because it gives the city the ability to review all invoices related to the infrastructure and also allows city inspectors on the construction site.


kansasredlegs 4 years, 9 months ago

City is happy it gets to: 1. Review infrastructure invoices monthly. Does the City get reject if found to be inflated? 2. have City inspectors on-site? Really, this Comm'n gets all excited to negotiate this in the agreement when said inspectors are required by city code when involving infrastructure. 3. Special Counsel? Mr. Andersen is bond counsel with Gilmore & Bell. Of course he wants this project to move forward as that's how his firm gets paid. What sayeth "our" City Attorney? Nothing, as the muzzle has been put on. Where is the written legal opinion spelling out that certainty Mr. Schum? 4. Place at the table is the kids' table in the other room Mr. Amyx

Bob Forer 4 years, 9 months ago

“I have been for this project the whole time, but we owe it to the public to get this (agreement) right,” said City Commissioner Jeremy Farmer, who argued that approval of the agreement should be delayed at least a week. “This is the one we can’t screw up.”

Interesting. Farmer has been for the agree the whole time, but he acknowledges that its screwed up, as he thinks we need to "get it right."

Another idiot city commissioner who is oblivious to his double-talk.

Bob Forer 4 years, 9 months ago

'After the meeting, City Commissioner Bob Schumm said Anderson’s blessing of the process was important because he doesn’t believe Anderson would issue an opinion on such a critical matter without a good degree of certainty.'

So why does Schumm think that Anderson would issue an opinion without a good cause for certainty when Chris Burger, who is a law professor, thinks otherwise?

Schumm is an absolute idiot.

Michelle Reynolds 4 years, 9 months ago

Ok. Great the commissioners will check the invoices. So what? What if the invoices come out to total less? Do we pay less? Or do we just find out we got hosed even more. Who gives the commission the invoices? Will they be directly from the subcontractors? Of will the Fritzels get to "doctor" them before they get reviewed?

Seems the commissioners are still not getting it right.

Richard Heckler 4 years, 9 months ago

The tax dollar money hole is underway no matter that infrastructure costs are well beyond the initial spending limit.

All because a few families grew tired of driving to Topeka,KCK or JOCO to train an practice. These families could have moved or worked around Lawrence existing features.

I believe the infrastructure work got underway before final approval.......

somebodynew 4 years, 9 months ago

smoke and mirrors. That is all any of this is at this point. That money is SPENT and in Fritzell's pocket.

What is that old saying about a pig and lipstick ?????

dontpeeltheonion 4 years, 9 months ago

What you (the citizens) were originally sold: A $33 million (estimated value) recreation building on land gifted to the city, all for the bargain price of $25 million.

What you (the citizens) are getting: An $11 million recreation building, on land sold to us, all for the reduced price of $22.5 million

A drop in advertised value of about $20 million give or take. Be thankful we're only paying $22.5 million now. Thanks for kicking in $2 milliion Coach Self!

Sue McDaniel 4 years, 9 months ago

It always looks good to stop and review before doing exactly the stupid move you had planned in the first place. I sure hope our citizens remember how the elected officials rolled right over for this project that does not benefit the citizens of Lawrence.

jafs 4 years, 9 months ago


This has been such a terrible project for so long now, it's not surprising that it continues to generate bad decisions.

I wonder how much it will cost the city (us) to defend against a lawsuit if one is brought?

pizzapete 4 years, 9 months ago

Speaking of costs, what are the maintenance and other operational costs going to be for this huge facility? I'm talking about the costs of the water, electric, sewer, insurance, trash removal, cleaning, snow removal, cutting of grass, etc. Does anyone have any idea? I'm thinking half a million dollars a year in expenses every year would be a low estimate.

From an earlier LJ World article about reduced parking we learned that "As city officials said all along, the amount of revenue the center generates won’t be enough to cover its expenses. The 2014 budget — once again assuming a full year of operation — projects expenses for the center will be about $350,000 more than revenues." Again, what are our long term operational expenses going to be? Why aren't we discussing them?

pizzapete 4 years, 9 months ago

Let's be honest, a "public-private partnership" is when you build yourself a huge commercial development mostly for your own private benefit and hand the bill for the construction fees and maintenance costs over to the taxpayers.

Linda Kucza 4 years, 9 months ago

I don't know about anybody else but the new little " answer this question to continue reading this page" is more than irritating. LJW, if you don't want an online readership, just say so. I am usually pretty easygoing but, really?

Terry Sexton 4 years, 9 months ago

Just fib on the answers to the questions. Makes it kinda fun.

Richard Heckler 4 years, 9 months ago

" Lawrence attorney Chris Burger, an adjunct professor of construction law and litigation with the KU law school, said Monday that he thought the city was breaking its own law that requires such public projects to be bid."


It became painfully obvious to me long ago that city hall/commissioners had no idea about what they were voting on yet were issuing approvals before a final site plan was available. The numbers have changed so many times it is embarrassing to the community not to mention reckless management of this project.

Stop the project and put it to the voting taxpayers. If the vote is NO it would save taxpayers 10's of millions upon 10's of millions of tax dollars beyond belief.

Approving a project without final infrastructure costs established???

Approving a project without THE final site plan on the table???

The policy became keep selling the public on the project no matter how many different times the project was reinvented.

pizzapete 4 years, 9 months ago

A funny thing about this whole project is that I have yet to meet even one person who is in favor of this thing. I would expect there to be an equal divide among people in favor and opposed to it among my family, friends, coworkers, and others. But honestly, some times it feels like the city commission, the Fritzels, and only a small handful of people who haven't studied any of the specifics of this deal are in favor of it. Could someone please remind me why we're having to connect our new recreation center with Fritzel and KU? Doesn't the city already own land where this should be built? Does Fritzel even have any experience building a facility like this or would we be better served finding another builder that actually specializes in building this type of structure? For 25 million you'd think we'd be getting a centrally located, fully modern, state of the art facility, not the warehouse in a cornfield design Fritzel came up with.

lawrencereporter 4 years, 9 months ago

On the city's website is a list of subcontractors that will be working on the recreation center building. Thomas Fritzel has hired Doug Compton to work at the recreation center... Compton has been relegated to being just a subcontractor.

General Contractor, Primary Contact: Thomas Fritzel, 785-423-7490 (Fritzel Company)

Earnie's Mechanical: Earnie Oshel 785-424-4291 (Fritzel Company)

Plumbing: JR Mechanical, Joseph Ranter (First Management, Doug Compton's company)

Artificial Turf manufacturer: Hellas, Steve Young 785-423-7490 (Fritzel Phone number) Hellas, Austin TX, 512-250-2910

Artificial Turf installation: Mid-Am, Jeff 785-423-7490 (Fritzel Phone number)

Athletic Resilient Flooring manufacturer: Tarkett, Walt 785-423-7490 (Fritzel Company)

Athletic Resilient Flooring installation: Tarkett, Walt 785-423-7490 (Fritzel Company)


jafs 4 years, 9 months ago


That's ridiculous. Why should we pay part of KU's insurance policy if they own the parking lot? And, why should we maintain it, and also supply free water for irrigation, etc.?

Here's an idea - if they own it, they can/should pay their own insurance, maintain their property, and pay for water they use. If we own it, we can do those things.

Topple 4 years, 9 months ago

“This is the one we can’t screw up.”

We've screwed up everything else on this project, but this part, we need to get right..

What a bunch of morons.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.