Sports Pavilion Lawrence staying busy with 36 weekend tournaments scheduled for 2019

In this file photo from July 22, 2016, players in The Hardwood Classic AAU basketball tournament fill courts at Sports Pavilion Lawrence.

September may be the calm before the storm for Sports Pavilion Lawrence.

No youth sports tournaments are scheduled at the athletic facility in northwest Lawrence this month, but tournaments will go “full bore” in October, said Lee Ice, youth sports supervisor for parks and recreation.

Thirty-six weekends of 2019 — more than half — are scheduled for tournaments at the facility, he said.

“There are very few weekends off between October and next July,” Ice said, noting that those without tournaments are usually holiday weekends.

The 181,000-square-foot facility, which opened four years ago, has eight basketball courts, which also double as 16 volleyball courts. Other facilities include an indoor turf area, gymnastics room, aerobic room, indoor walking track, cardio equipment, weight area and meeting rooms that can be rented by the public. Outside are tennis courts and paved trails.

Chad Tower, facilities operations supervisor for the sports pavilion, said he tries to schedule between 30 and 40 weekend tournaments each year, but 2019 looks to be the highest number to date.

“It will probably be the busiest tournament activity schedule that we’ve had because we’ve also incorporated a couple of arts and crafts fairs to go along with the pickleball, basketball and volleyball tournaments we’ve got going on,” he said.

Additionally, space for youth sports in Lawrence will be tight in July because a large basketball tournament at the sports pavilion with 200 teams is scheduled the same weekend as a softball tournament throughout town with another 100 teams.

Ice said the tournaments were both in the planning stages, but if they do end up on the same week it could cause issues such as lack of hotel rooms.

“Can they co-exist the same week? That’s yet to be determined,” Ice said.

The increase in tournaments also brings up a common issue: lack of public courts at the sports pavilion.

At least one court will be available during each of the tournaments from October to April, Tower said.

The city originally dictated that the facility must provide some courts to the public during the tournaments, but the city changed the policy in 2016 to allow for all the courts to be used for 20 days per year.

“We’ll use those 20 days up because we have more and more national events that want to come here,” he said. “Court space is at a premium and using all eight courts out here is attractive to those types of events.”

Tower said the sports pavilion has not received much pushback about lack of public courts during tournaments because the city opens free play at the other recreation centers. The city lists all the tournaments scheduled at the sports pavilion on its website, including how many courts are open to the public.

While the tournaments seem to be adding up, Lawrence will soon have some competition on the youth tournament circuit because of the recent renovation of Kansas City’s Hy-Vee Arena, formerly known as Kemper Arena.

The renovated sports arena plans to reopen in October and will host several tournaments throughout the month, according to the arena’s website.

John Blazek, a member of the Lawrence Parks and Recreation Advisory Board, said he thinks some tournaments will choose Lawrence over Kansas City because it’s a smaller town and easier to navigate.

Ice agreed, but he noted some tournament directors have been asking to expand their tournaments to the school district facilities because they need more than eight courts.

“Everybody who has been here wants to keep coming back, but, sure, they are going to look for deals,” Ice said.

Sports Pavilion Lawrence also has the benefit of being a publicly owned facility, said Roger Steinbrock, a marketing staff member for parks and recreation. Sports facilities that are privately owned may need to increase costs to host tournaments.

Steinbrock said the Lawrence facility looked to keep its rates in line with the Johnson County Parks and Recreation fees.

“Common sense would tell you a private business is going to charge more than we are,” he said.


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