Local organization that received city funding for Junior Olympics still owes money related to event
photo by: Mike Yoder
More than a year and a half after a local sporting events organization hosted the Junior Olympics — with the help of public dollars — there are still unpaid bills and unanswered questions.
The USA Track & Field Junior Olympic Championships were held at the University of Kansas’ Rock Chalk Park in July 2017, and KU officials say the now-defunct Lawrence Sports Corporation still owes the university about $78,000. In addition, former officials of the Missouri Valley USA Track & Field Association, which was involved with the event, say it was to receive a portion of the revenue but never did.
In 2015, the City Commission agreed to pay $150,000 to assist the LSC in hosting the Junior Olympics. City officials say the city has met all of its contractual obligations regarding the event, and a city audit of a portion of the event’s financials didn’t provide much additional information on the issue.
City Manager Tom Markus recently told the Journal-World that though questions remain, it’s a closed-book issue for the city from a financial standpoint. He said the unpaid amounts are the LSC’s responsibility.
“It’s pretty clear that, contractually, that’s their obligation and they need to be communicating with the university,” Markus said. “We’re out of it at this point, and our audit doesn’t require us to look at the numbers that they were supposed to pay other agencies.”
LSC ceased operating not long after the Junior Olympics. Voicemail and email messages left by the Journal-World for the organization’s former executive director, Bob Sanner, have not been returned.
The city does not have an agreement with KU Athletics regarding the Junior Olympics, and the city sent a letter to KU Athletics indicating that it was the city’s position that any outstanding expenses owed to KU Athletics are LSC’s responsibility. The letter points to the section of the city’s contract with LSC related to KU Athletics.
Under the contract between the city and LSC, the city was to pay $150,000 toward specific event expenses and would have “no other or further obligation related to the Junior Olympics event.” That includes about $68,000 that was to go toward five services: police security, emergency medical services, rental of Sports Pavilion Lawrence, rental of KU’s Rock Chalk Park and on-site medical support. If the costs of those services went over the $68,000 amount, the rest would be LSC’s responsibility. At the time the contract between the city and LSC was signed, exact costs for these services were not available, but the contract does provide some cost estimates, including $21,000 for the Rock Chalk Park rental.
The costs for those five services were paid directly by the city on LSC’s behalf, according to the contract.
The city’s funding agreement with LSC gives the city the right to audit records related to the city’s contribution to the Junior Olympics event, and the city said it had completed that audit in December, according to a memo to the commission. Markus previously told the Journal-World he would like to see a full accounting of the operation, but LSC only provided information related to the city-funded payments, as was required under the contract.
As part of the audit, the city sent letters to nine vendors asking them to confirm that LSC had paid them, according to the memo. KU Athletics was the only vendor to indicate it had not been paid in full. In its response, KU Athletics states that the city had paid about $1,300 on behalf of LSC toward the rental of Rock Chalk park for the weeklong Junior Olympics, but that the university was still owed more than $78,000 for other rental and event expenses.
University spokesman Joe Monaco said in an email to the Journal-World that KU has not received any additional payments from LSC and that KU has not taken any further action to attempt to collect the funds since the initial payment notices were sent. When asked whether KU had received a response or explanation from LSC, Monaco said that LSC leaders are aware of the outstanding balance and that KU will continue discussions about payment as appropriate. He did not specifically respond as to whether LSC has provided any indication that it plans to pay the past-due amount.
An open question surrounding the Junior Olympics is how much revenue the event generated. In an email to the Journal-World, former Missouri Valley Association president Cliff Wiley said that the association, which helped win the bid for Lawrence to host the event, had a contract with the LSC to receive 35 percent of the net profits. Wiley and MVA President Carma Robinson-Kendall said that the association never received any money from the LSC nor did it receive a statement of revenue.
The nonprofit LSC was incorporated in 1990, according to state business records on the Kansas Secretary of State’s website. The last annual report the LSC filed with the state was in 2016, and the organization’s status is now listed as forfeited due to a failure to file its annual report. The LSC was formerly affiliated with the local convention and visitors bureau, Explore Lawrence, but the two organizations severed ties in 2016 in the midst of preparations for the Junior Olympics.