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Planning commission recommends approval of permit for sports complex/rec center, which now contemplates hosting non-athletic events


They didn’t exactly break out in the Rock Chalk chant, but the Lawrence-Douglas County Planning Commission on Monday night did recommend approval of a key special use permit for the proposed Rock Chalk Sports Park near the northeast corner of Sixth Street and the South Lawrence Trafficway.

Planning commissioners voted 6-3 to recommend approval for the proposed sports complex, which would combine Kansas University facilities with a city-owned mega recreation center.

The special use permit spells out the general uses at the site, and they are much as we have reported them over the past several months: A 10,000-seat track and field stadium, a 2,500-seat soccer field, a 1,000-seat softball stadium and a 28,000-square-foot indoor training center plus a 14,000-square-foot area for an indoor softball field. All those facilities would be university-owned.

The city-owned facilities would include a 181,000-square-foot recreation center/youth field house and eight, outdoor lighted tennis courts.

The plan also shows a host of other future improvements that could be contemplated by the university at some point. They include: A 3,800-seat indoor arena that could accommodate sporting events and concerts; a 4,000-seat outdoor amphitheater; eight tennis courts and an indoor tennis facility; and a lacrosse field.

All the items are still subject to tweaking, but the general outline of the project is starting to become more solid. The SUP application does make one thing clear: Rock Chalk Park will need a major variance from the city’s parking standards.

According to the city staff report reviewing the project, the various uses of Rock Chalk Park would require 5,244 parking spaces under the city’s current code. The plan proposes to provide 1,454 paved parking spaces plus another 700 unpaved spaces for overflow parking.

The city’s planning director, though, said the project makes a good case for receiving an exemption from the code. It is unlikely uses will be occurring simultaneously at all facilities in the park. A parking study estimates that 520 spaces would be needed to handle a typical day at the recreation center plus accommodate a soccer match at the facility. About 1,000 spaces would be need to accommodate a large basketball or volleyball tournament plus either a softball or soccer event.

The city’s review of the project, however, acknowledges there likely will be some events that the proposed parking won’t be able to accommodate. The proposed parking is estimated to accommodate an event of about 6,400 people. The track and field stadium, however, is designed to seat 10,000 people.

The city’s planning staff is recommending the project be allowed to proceed with the proposed parking because the large events won’t be frequent, and a plan can be developed to provide shuttles to the event. The city mentioned deals might be reached to run shuttles from Free State High School or from the KU Park and Ride Lot.

Who knows whether the Kansas Relays or perhaps a Kansas high school state track meet will ever fill the stadium, but the special use permit also brings up the possibility of the site hosting non-athletic events. The city and KU haven’t laid out any specific plans for what type of non-athletic events they might be interested in, but the staff report provides a few examples: Music concerts; festivals; BBQ cook-offs; farmers markets; racing and vehicle exhibitions, including BMX and Motocross racing and truck and tractor pulls. The idea of non-sports related events seemed to be part of the reason why the SUP drew three negative votes on Monday. The city is proposing that any non-athletic event receive a special events permit from the city. Each such a permit would have to be approved by the City Commission. But some planners argued that there should be a more rigorous notification process to let neighbors of the sports complex know an event permit application has been filed.

Commissioners Deron Belt, Jon Josserand and Bryan Culver voted against the SUP on Monday.

The Planning Commission’s recommendation now goes to the Lawrence City Commission, which will consider giving final approval to the SUP. A date for that hearing hasn’t yet been set.

City commissioners, though, will be taking action tonight on the proposed zoning of the property. Commissioners are scheduled to approve rezoning for 90 acres from Agricultural to General Public and Institutional Uses. Commissioners meet at 6:35 p.m. today at City Hall.


Catalano 5 years, 5 months ago

The bait and switch just gets better and better.

Currahee 5 years, 5 months ago

Clever ploy. It will create the perception that demand is high for a sports complex like this- to not have enough parking for everyone. Just build it already. Build everything. The police complex, the new sewage treatment plant, and this. Raise our property taxes. Stop beating around the bushes, we all know you don't care. Real income growth comes from also attracting businesses, not just people. If I and thousands like me who commute to work in KC or Topeka face an increase of taxes, where's the incentive to stay? Keep that in mind.

KiferGhost 5 years, 5 months ago

Honestly, taxes or no, what incentive is there to stay period.

Keith 5 years, 5 months ago

"The city’s planning staff is recommending the project be allowed to proceed with the proposed parking because the large events won’t be frequent,"

I thought the large events were the reason we needed this project so badly, i.e. basketball tournaments. Are they now saying 'if we build it they will not come?'

pizzapete 5 years, 5 months ago

Planning commission? You guys have the nerve to call yourselves a planning commision? The city staff thinks this facility would require 5,244 spaces and they're only going to put in 2,154? So that leaves 3,090 spaces needed for a track and field event where there is seating for 10,000 people. I guess in a city of 100,000 people we can make do with 2,000 parking spaces if the sports arena isn't being built for us anyway. Or maybe they're thinking the overflow will just park at the library? Or maybe our city leaders will just say whoops, we need to build a new parking garage, we didn't think more than 500 people were ever going to use this place at the same time? Poor planning costs money. The worse the planning the more we can expect to pay to make up for it in the future. I say kill this thing now before it turns into a monster so large none of us can afford to feed in the future.

classclown 5 years, 5 months ago

Better start thinking about adding another 5 or 6 levels on that parking garage at the library.

deec 5 years, 5 months ago

Lawrence is rapidly following in the footsteps of Birmingham Alabama.

Water 5 years, 5 months ago

I enjoy playing sports but haven't been to keen watching sports. Wouldn't it be better to devote more space and money into the actual playing area and less into the spectator area? Is the objective to encourage people to exercise or to observe others exercising? I'll bet the sum total of the seating and parking is greater than that of the playing fields. Do we want to encourage some 10,000 people to stuff their pie holes and get fatter and squishier while watching a handful of people play?
The internet is here man. We can watch games on our smart phones from virtually anywhere. TVs are available now which allow us to connect to the internet. Five years from now people will be too lazy to drive to the park to watch a game. (That was a biased opinion Video Store not one shred of College courses evidence Newspaper have I Library to support it Travel Agencys......Political Campaigns)
Why don't they just build enough seating for say 500 people to accomodate the player's families at each sport's field. Stick some flag poles in the grounds around these fields then before a game, run some cameras up the flag poles. People can just visit a website and watch the game. We save money on parking and stadium seating construction and maintenance. We won't have all that traffic congestion either. I love sports.

flyin_squirrel 5 years, 5 months ago

Because the city isn't building the 10,000 seat stadium, KU is. So we are not paying or saving money by KU building a smaller stadium, and the more people KU attracts to town, the better for Lawrence businesses.

Why not just do the parking like the Kansas Speedway does? Instead of building a huge concrete lot that will only be used once a year, have an area that is grass but can be used for parking. Win/Win, in that it helps the environment and is easy to maintain.

deec 5 years, 5 months ago

Since the track and all the related development is heavily taxpayer-subsidized, I don't think that model is a good one to emulate.

flyin_squirrel 5 years, 5 months ago

KU Athletics is not Taxpayer-subsidized. KUAC is a separate corporation from the University of Kansas. In fact, KUAC has to pay the full tuition (unless they are a partial scholarship, then the athlete pays the rest) for every athlete that attends the University of Kansas.

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