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.