Archive for Sunday, February 16, 2014

City to explore feasibility of convention center

February 16, 2014


The idea of a conference center — or perhaps even a full-blown convention center — is set to get a more serious look by city officials.

Lawrence city commissioners at their Tuesday evening meeting are being asked to join forces with Kansas University to study the feasibility of a convention center and hotel development.

"We need to find out if it's built whether they will come," City Manager David Corliss said.

As it is proposed, the city and KU would send out a joint request for proposals that would seek to find out:

• How large of a conference or convention center the community could support;

• An evaluation of potential locations for a center;

• Estimates on how much a center may cost, including any funding that likely would be requested from the city.

How much, if at all, public taxpayers would have to participate in a convention center is expected to be a big question.

"I don't think it hurts to look at any of this," City Commissioner Mike Amyx said. "But we have to be mindful that there are a lot of projects out there that will have to compete for the same money. We're still talking about the need for a new police station."

Lawrence officials have researched what Manhattan officials have done to locate a conference center in their downtown. In Manhattan, city officials are funding about $10.8 million of the approximately $30 million project, which includes 15,000 square feet of conference space, a 135-room Hilton hotel and a city-owned parking garage.

A site for a conference center also is expected to be a big question. Downtown sites, locations closer to campus and sites near Clinton Lake all are expected to be reviewed by consultants.

Talk of a convention center has heated up recently. Downtown property owned by the Journal-World's parent company, The World Company, became a candidate for redevelopment after the newspaper moved its printing operations from its longtime home near Sixth and New Hampshire streets.

KU officials also have been studying the idea of a convention center as part of KU's master planning process, with some discussion of a center near 23rd and Iowa streets.

Tim Caboni, KU's vice chancellor for public affairs, said the university is still interested in a convention center because it often has difficulty accommodating academic conferences. Caboni said KU was particularly interested in looking for partnership opportunities with the city. He said university leaders have an open mind about where a facility ought to be built.

"I don't think we're anywhere near the part of the process where we are talking about sites," Caboni said. "Right now we're just trying to figure out if it is viable and what that would look like."

Corliss said he anticipated a feasibility study could be completed by late spring or early summer.

City commissioners will consider the issue at their 6:35 p.m. meeting on Tuesday.


Richard Heckler 4 years, 2 months ago

It's time for a citizens group to step in and make sure we taxpayers that foot these bills get to vote on these issues. Because it is my thinking that politicians are not fiscal responsible spenders. It's time for tax dollar projects to be voted on by the bill payers aka we taxpayers.

Taxpayers want to get the city sidewalks is great shape and add many miles of safe hike/bike trails so children can bike to school and other places safely. Make our walkable community real life. All of which could be done for a whole lot less than a $30 million rec center. BUT ohhhhh know the city is alway broke until zillion tax $$$$$$$$$$ projects are on the table or a developer wants another handout.

Simply because Manhattan did one does not mean Lawrence does one. Before handing out zillions in tax dollar welfare to some hotel and residential projects. Then the $30 plus million dollar rec center project that no one knows what the operational budgets will look like cuz we're reasonably certain this will never pay back the taxpayers nor do taxpayers know what the final cost of construction will be.

A few years ago I thought a convention center at the current library space plus building a new library next to the art center was doable. Ohhhhhhh knowww the city is too broke. Now we know "the city is too broke" is as bogus as a three dollar bill.

Lawrence Morgan 4 years, 2 months ago

Richard, I completely agree with you on the above points. Walkable trails are so important for all age groups.

But then, we have asked for voter participation on the rec project, but what do we have instead? It's all done behind the scenes, not transparent.

I, too, wonder how much money this city really has? And who is going to be responsible for the upkeep of all these projects in future years? Lawrence is not that large of a city, in my opinion, to take on more and more of these projects, especially when there are so many other things that can be done - walkable trails throughout the city - at much less cost and instead of these huge projects with huge construction costs?

Steve Jacob 4 years, 2 months ago

I always bring up the first thing that New Orleans rebuilt after Katrina was the Superdome so the conventions could come back. A convention center is need in Lawrence, I would have preferred that over a new Library.

Sam Crow 4 years, 2 months ago

So then why wasnt the NOLA convention center the first thing rebuilt? The dome had nothing to do with conventions.

Matthew Herbert 4 years, 2 months ago

Basing "good ideas for a city" off of New Orleans? Yikes.

Julius Nolan 4 years, 2 months ago

Never fear, you'll soon see one or the other asking for and getting a tax break for this thing, needed or not. If KU feels they need this, let KU use their money and not the Lawrence taxpayers money to build it.

Wayne Kerr 4 years, 2 months ago

Like good parasites, they're going to wait until we the host have recovered enough from their last feast before they come asking for seconds.

RJ Johnson 4 years, 2 months ago

I think the City of Lawrence needs stop spending so much money!!!

This is getting way out of hand!!

Wayne Kerr 4 years, 2 months ago

"How much, if at all, public taxpayers would have to participate in a convention center is expected to be a big question." This shouldn't be a question at all. Leave it to the private sector to build it without public funding. Why are we tax payers always expected to support the wealthy property developers in this city?

John Graham 4 years, 2 months ago

Recent city projects undertaken or reportedly needed to be undertaken include rec center, new police station, multiple water source and sewer line updates/additions, and road improvements to city streets to name just a few( I am sure there are plenty more that could be listed). All of these projects are estimated to cost multiple tens of millions of dollars from the city tax base. In addition there is multiple tens of millions in school bonds for updating facilities. How about the commissioners let some of these projects get taken care of before they worry about spending more tax dollars? The money has to come from somewhere, most likely increased property taxes or sales taxes.

Also with a new convention center wouldn't that steal some events that the city commissioners said would be carried out at the new rec center? Didn't they report how the rec center space could be rented out for various non-sport related charity fundraising events and other private organization's events as a means of funding for yearly operating budget? If events are held at convention center instead of rec center couldn't that mean more taxes needed for rec center operating budget?

All these projects sound nice and some are certainly more need than want but they all cost city taxpayers millions upon millions of dollars. How about focusing on finishing the needs before spending a lot more money on wants?

Beator 4 years, 2 months ago

If the convention center is built in the food desert, the square footage of the desert will be smaller. Thus, during a polar vortex, travelers will have shelter during their quest for food.

Mel Wedermyer 4 years, 2 months ago

I believe the Police center would be a higher priority than the Convention center. But I do think the Convention Center would be a great idea for the city, but would be used more for the University. So let's do a joint venture with the University putting up some serious bucks.

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