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Archive for Monday, March 25, 2013

Commission to host open house, set bid date for $25M recreation center; city commission candidates split on whether they would alter project

March 25, 2013

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After more than a year’s worth of noise surrounding a proposed $25 million recreation center, city commissioners on Tuesday are set to put the project on track toward construction.

Commissioners are being asked to approve a May 7 bid opening for the 181,000-square-foot building, slated for an area near the northeast corner of Sixth Street and the South Lawrence Trafficway. The city also will host an open house from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday at City Hall.

But the bid process up for approval ensures that it will be the next city commission — the one installed after the April 2 election — that will be responsible for accepting the bids and issuing $25 million worth of bonds needed to pay for the facility.

Retail rezoning request also up for approval

Plans for a 181,000-square-foot city recreation center won’t be the only reason city commissioners are looking at the intersection of Sixth Street and the South Lawrence Trafficway.

Commissioners also are being asked to approve a rezoning request that will allow up to 155,000 square feet of retail space to be built on the northwest corner of Sixth Street and the South Lawrence Trafficway.

The 146-acre site is across the trafficway from the proposed site for the city’s recreation center and the larger Rock Chalk Park sport village.

The City Commission previously has balked at the retail zoning for the corner, and the Lawrence-Douglas County Planning Commission in October recommended denial of the retail zoning request.

But in February, the Planning Commission reversed itself and recommended approval of the retail zoning.

The property is owned by a group led by Lawrence developers Duane and Steve Schwada. The group has argued retail zoning at the corner will be important in assuring there will be appropriate retail amenities available next to the Rock Chalk Park sports village.

On Monday, two candidates in the field said they are holding open the possibility of redesigning the project or significantly shrinking it if they are elected to office. But the other four candidates in the field have indicated they aren’t comfortable in revisiting the contentious recreation center decision now that the current city commission has committed to the project. If those positions hold, that makes it unlikely that a future commission would overturn any decision on the recreation center. Three of the five city commission seats are up for election, but the two holdover commissioners — Mayor Bob Schumm and Commissioner Mike Dever — have been enthusiastic supporters of the current plans.

“I think it becomes dangerous to have commissions overturn the decisions of past commissions because then you really open the city up to lawsuits,” said candidate Scott Criqui. “I don’t agree with this commission’s decision, but I have to respect it. That is just part of life.”

Candidate Rob Chestnut said he also wouldn’t be likely to alter the plans for the project or reduce its size. He said the project has great potential, and the city has made a good faith commitment to move forward on the center. The city last month signed a development agreement with an entity of the KU Endowment Association and Thomas Fritzel’s Bliss Sports.

“At this point, it is clear the city is contractually bound by the agreement,” Chestnut said. “I feel like it will be my job to make sure all the parties are held accountable to the terms and conditions of the agreement.”

City Commissioner Mike Amyx, the lone incumbent in the race, and candidate Leslie Soden both held open the possibility of seeking changes to the project.

“If we have to vote for accepting a bid for a 181,000-square-foot building, I will vote against that,” Soden said.

Soden said she would seek to negotiate a new project that would still be built on the proposed site but would be smaller. She questions the financial soundness of the current facility.

“The numbers are just staggering,” Soden said. “It is going to be a money pit.”

Amyx has been the lone current city commissioner to cast votes against the proposed recreation center. He said he will keep open the option to vote against the construction bids and the financing of the project.

“I will question any project that comes along until the final decision is made,” Amyx said. “I’m not going to just change my opinion on it.”

The other two candidates in the race — Jeremy Farmer and Terry Riordan — both have consistently expressed support throughout their campaigns for moving ahead with the proposed recreation center.

As for the latest details on the project, the public will get to see the plans up close at Tuesday’s open house. The main elements of the project remain largely unchanged from previous proposals. They include:

• Eight full-court gyms that can be converted to 16 cross-court gyms or volleyball courts.

• An eighth-mile, four-lane, indoor walking track.

• A gymnastics area.

• An indoor turf field for soccer and other sports.

• A cardio/weight room area.

• An aerobic/fitness area.

• An area to support a future wellness center.

During their Tuesday night meeting, which begins at 6:35 at city hall, commissioners will consider putting the project out for bid.

Comments

JerryLHarper 1 year ago

  • You can build the same recreation center – but with 3 courts (as Parks and Recreation repeatedly proposed doing until word came down to change its story) for about $14.7 million – and add an additional full court and parking to Holcom ($1.6 million) and to East Lawrence ($1.6 million). That gives the 8 full size city courts (16 cross-courts). located to serve all areas of the city far more conveniently and for less money than the proposed recreation center ($19 million)?

  • Proponents erroneously claimed over and over again that these very same standards showed Lawrence to have a shortfall of 18-20 basketball courts (and continued to do so right up until the moment Chad Lawhorn’s story in the Journal-World debunked that tale)?

  • Not one dime of economic development money or hotel/motel tax money -will be used to pay for the proposed recreation center or any shortfall in operating expenses – even though its gargantuan size was justified on economic development and tourism grounds for the avowed purpose of putting ‘heads in beds?’

  • If the feasibility study is wrong (and it most assuredly is), guess who get to pick up the entire operating costs (estimated at $1,000,000)? A) The economic development budget, B) The tourism and vistors budget, C) the taxpaying public

  • The proposed recreation center would be a staggering 9 times larger than any one of the other three city recreation center? (See relative size below.)

  • Lawrence already has 3 times as many city-owned gyms as other cities in the 80,000-100,000 population category nationwide according to NRPA data?

  • The the firm making the feasibility study stated that the City should not rely upon its projections? “Because procedures were limited, we express no opinion or assurances of any kind on the achievability of any projected information contained herein and this report should not be relied upon for that purpose.”

  • The feasibility study projections assumed that the proposed recreation facility would host 50 tournaments, clinics and camps each year – more than one every weekend excluding holidays? Hosting that many events will make it, as a practical matter, almost impossible for Lawrence residents to use the facilities on any weekends and many weekdays? (Parking problems among other issues.)

  • When KU hosts events at its associated facilities, e.g. track meets, and when Fritzel’s Bliss Foundation hosts events, it will be, as a practical matter, almost impossible for Lawrence residents to use the recreation center? (Parking problems among other issues.)

  • The so-called ‘competitive-bidding’ requirement for the proposed recreation center is a joke and doesn’t save Lawrence a single penny because the city pays $25-million to the Endowment Assn./KU Athletics no matter what the bid unless – fat chance – the bids on the center and on the infrastructure come in far, far below projections?

3

Daniel_Larusso 1 year ago

Is this going to be free and hassle free for everyone like the other community buildings?

1

toe 1 year ago

Waste of ink. The development, giveaway, and back room deals are already history. Instead, I want to know who they tabbed to build? This too has already been decided. What do you bet friends of the Endowment Association have already gotten site plans and architectural drawings of their sports bar and bank. I can't wait for the bikini volleyball contests. That should really bring out the crowd. Beer? When will the permit be awarded? Extend the T? Which line will go out there? Police substation? Where is it going? Fire Station? Will it have a view of the volleyball contests? Where will Bill Self's statue go? You know, the one holding the bag of money.

4

Steven Gaudreau 1 year ago

The problem with the "open bid " is it does not include the revenue of operating the business within the park. T Fritz has the upper hand because he will build for break even and make his money through the revenue of the business he is going to operate inside the park. T. Fritz will win the bid, the bidding process is just an act for the taxpayers who will get the short end of the stick right up our keysters. Well played Thomas, well played. Don't hate the player!!

3

Keith 1 year ago

“I think it becomes dangerous to have commissions overturn the decisions of past commissions because then you really open the city up to lawsuits,” said candidate Scott Criqui. “I don’t agree with this commission’s decision, but I have to respect it. That is just part of life.”

Really? Future commissions are bound to continue the practices of past commissions? It may be a stretch in this case, but look up legislative entrenchment.

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just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 1 year ago

“I think it becomes dangerous to have commissions overturn the decisions of past commissions because then you really open the city up to lawsuits,” said candidate Scott Criqui. “I don’t agree with this commission’s decision, but I have to respect it. That is just part of life.”


Legislative decisions are overturned all the time. That's why there are elections. If you think it's a bad idea, there is no reason to go along with it.

And there would be no grounds for lawsuits. The city might be on the hook the $2.3 million it's already committed to, but that's a whole lot less than $25 million. And stopping or scaling back the city rec center would not stop the KU athletics portion of this project-- unless Fritzel chose to back out because the city would no longer be subsidizing it.

6

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 1 year ago

"Soden said she would seek to negotiate a new project that would still be built on the proposed site but would be smaller. She questions the financial soundness of the current facility.

“The numbers are just staggering,” Soden said. “It is going to be a money pit.”"


Yes, it would be a money pit-- but The People Who Really Matter are at the bottom of that pit ready to collect all the money that's thrown into it.

7

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