It’s unfortunate that the downtown shot-put event that has become a popular part of the Kansas Relays doesn’t fit into the Kansas Athletics budget this year.
The event had been a positive partnership between the city and Kansas University. Strengthening that partnership was cited as a key goal by city officials as they worked through what became a controversial construction agreement at the new Rock Chalk Park in west Lawrence. That’s why it’s particularly disappointing that, after sponsoring the downtown shot put event for three years, KU Athletics has chosen this year, the first year the Relays will be held at Rock Chalk Park, to discontinue its support for the event.
It’s good that the Lawrence Convention and Visitors Bureau is planning to raise the funds necessary to save the downtown event, but it’s too bad the financial partnership with KU has gone away.
It’s a budgetary issue, according to KU Athletics officials. In fact the department cut the entire $200,000 item that was used to pay for travel and other expenses to bring in professional athletes to compete in the relays. Although this wasn’t presented as a one-year cut (perhaps related to the fact that Rock Chalk Park won’t be entirely completed this year?), it would be a shame if invitations to professional athletes were eliminated for the long-term. The presence of professional athletes adds much to the prestige of the Kansas Relays — which supposedly were going to reap big benefits from having a new home on the edge of Lawrence.
Every organization has to set its own budget priorities, but $50,000 to $60,000 to preserve the downtown shot put doesn’t seem like much in an estimated $70 million KU Athletics budget. Continuing that sponsorship also would have been a significant gesture in support of downtown business people, who have expressed concern about the dollars Rock Chalk Park draws to Lawrence being spent on the west edge of the city, instead of downtown.
It seems that this issue is settled for this year, and we congratulate the Lawrence CVB for working to preserve the downtown shot put. Perhaps things will look up financially for KU Athletics and it will be able to renew its support of this popular event in future years.