At the construction site of Lawrence's new 181,000 square-foot recreation center, everything is on schedule, except the name.
KU facilities nearing completion
The Bermuda grass is growing and the blue Italian quartz is shining. Those are among the signs that Kansas University athletic teams are about to move into new facilities at Rock Chalk Park.
Frank Masterson, an assistant director of operations for Kansas Athletics, said the KU soccer, softball and track and field teams could start moving into the center in the next 30 to 45 days. KU's first soccer match at the facility is scheduled for Aug. 15.
Members of the city's Parks and Recreation Advisory Board on Tuesday toured the facilities, which include track and field, soccer and softball stadiums that will be leased by Kansas Athletics. Among the highlights of the tour:
• The 2,500-seat soccer stadium will feature Bermuda grass, which just recently was planted. A full stand of grass is expected in about 30 days.
• The softball, soccer and track and field locker rooms are each adorned with countertops and showers made from a special, blue Italian quartz. In addition to the three KU locker rooms, the complex also has two locker rooms for visiting teams.
• The three sports will share a weight room and training room, complete with an approximately 15-foot long hydrotherapy hot tub.
• Work continues on the softball stadium and its adjacent indoor practice facility. The 1,100-seat stadium will feature synthetic field turf.
• Seating capacity for the track and field stadium is about 6,500, although there is room for temporary seating to be installed for larger events.
Members of the city's Parks and Recreation Advisory board were told at a tour of the site Tuesday that the mammoth center is still on schedule to open by Sept. 2. What it will be named, however, isn't yet clear.
City commissioners in early May narrowed the field to three names: Lawrence Fieldhouse, Lawrence Freedom Fieldhouse or Lawrence Sports Pavilion. All three names also would include the moniker "at Rock Chalk Park," referring to the larger sports complex for Kansas University that is adjacent to the center.
Commissioners indicated they likely would come to a naming decision after receiving sample logos from designers in about two weeks, but thus far the item hasn't come back for commission discussion.
"I still think one of those three will be the name," said City Commissioner Jeremy Farmer, but he said he wasn't' sure when the name discussion would come back for commission action.
He said he has heard some comments that a name including fieldhouse may create confusion because of the prominence of the Allen Fieldhouse name in the community.
"I think we are trying to hit a home run, but we also recognize that the most important thing is to include something so the community has ownership of it," Farmer said.
As for the rest of the work underway at the center, the building will be weatherproof once a few pieces of glass are installed near the main entrance to the building.
"We're ready to get it open," said Ernie Shaw, the city's director of parks and recreation. "We're ready to get to doing what we know, which is programming and getting people in the door. It is going to be a great day when this place opens and it is full of people."
The center is scheduled to open on Sept. 2, which is when the fall session of parks and recreation classes are scheduled to begin. The city already has booked some tournaments — mainly volleyball and basketball — that will begin using the center in November. Thus far, the city has 18 tournament dates booked, with most of them beginning in January.
On Tuesday, workers were finishing hanging basketball goals and volleyball nets from the automated, ceiling-mounted systems that lower and raise the devices. The center will feature eight full-sized, high-school length basketball courts that can also be used to house 16 volleyball courts or 16 youth-sized basketball courts.
Hardwood maple floors for the courts are expected to be delivered in about a week. Crews also are waiting to install a rubberized surface for an indoor track that will be on a mezzanine above two of the courts. Work also hasn't yet begun to install synthetic turf on an indoor field that will be adjacent to several of the basketball courts.
Shaw said work also is set to begin on installing a 5 kilometer trail that will run through the woodlands and rolling hills just north of the center. In addition to the unpaved trail, the property will include about 1.5 miles of concrete trails that are on the more developed portions.