The city’s Public Incentives Review Committee this afternoon failed to recommend approval of a set of incentives for the proposed Rock Chalk Park development.
The review committee deadlocked 3-3 on the issue of whether the proposed sports park should receive $40 million in industrial revenue bonds, which would give the project a 10-year, 100 percent tax abatement valued at about $17 million.
Lawrence city commissioners, though, still have the final say on whether the project should receive the incentive. City commissioners will consider the issue at their 6:35 p.m. meeting today at City Hall.
On the Public Incentives Review Committee, members Boog Highberger, Rob Chestnut — who is a current candidate for the Lawrence City Commission — and Douglas County Commissioner Mike Gaughan voted against recommending the incentive.
Committee members who voted to recommend the incentive were Mayor Bob Schumm, City Commissioner Mike Dever and Brad Burnside. Other members of the committee either were absent or abstained from voting.
Chestnut, a chief financial officer by trade, raised several questions about whether the financial analysis conducted by the city painted an adequate picture of the financial cost and benefits of the project. He said he could see a larger value of the project, but said the city’s economic development policy indicates projects that receive an incentive should meet a certain cost-to-benefit ratio and it was unclear that this project met that standard.
Gaughan said he believed the financing agreement between Thomas Fritzel’s Bliss Sports and various KU entities still wasn’t understood well enough.
“I just wondered what type of precedent we were setting with the lack of clarity on a lot of these financial details,” Gaughan said after making his vote.
The project, slated for the area north and east of the South Lawrence Trafficway and Sixth Street interchange, calls for stadiums for track and field, soccer and softball that would be owned by Fritzel’s Bliss Sports but would be leased to Kansas Athletics.
On adjacent property, the city is considering building a $25 million city-owned recreation center. The Public Incentives Review Committee on Tuesday wasn’t considering any items directly related to the recreation center.