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Go-Karts, batting cages, mini-golf planned for new West Lawrence Family Fun Center; new info on high-speed Internet plans
I need to find my Mario Andretti sunglasses, my Chi Chi Rodriguez slacks and my Alex Rodriguez cologne ASAP. There are plans for a new West Lawrence development that includes electric go-karts, miniature golf, batting cages, and even mini-bowling. (I'm not sure what I'm supposed to wear for mini-bowling, but I promise it will be small.)
Plans have been filed at Lawrence City Hall for a proposed Family Fun Center at 4300 W. 24th Place, which basically is the vacant ground near the corner of Clinton Parkway and Inverness Drive. The plans call for the development to be on about 11 acres near the multitude of apartment complexes that have developed over the years between Inverness Drive and Crossgate Drive.
Based on the drawings submitted to City Hall, preliminary plans include about a 36,000 square-foot area for a go-kart track, about 7,200 square feet for batting cages, 87,000 square feet for miniature golf, and a 6,800 square-foot "tot lot." (I'm assuming it is an area for toddlers, but a pit full of warm tater tots would be excellent as well.)
In the center of the site is a proposed two-story, 28,000 square-foot clubhouse, which I assume would have the mini-bowling area. Information submitted to City Hall also indicates there also will be lots of area for birthday parties, arcade games, snack areas and that sort of thing. The information also indicates preliminary plans are to have a small bar area that would serve 3.2 beer.
The plans filed don't make it clear who the developer is behind the project. Lawrence-based Paul Werner Architects has filed the plans and is shepherding the development through the city approval process.
The development will require some significant approvals. I'm confirming with city officials, but it looks like the project will need not only a change in zoning to a commercial designation, but also a special use permit and a text amendment to the zoning code that would allow outdoor recreation centers in CN2 commercial zoning district.
It will be an interesting development to watch. Neighbors in the general area have fought hard against apartment development in recent years. So, the fact that this prime piece of property is being proposed for something other than apartments is probably welcome. Whether neighbors will take to the idea of an outdoor recreation center will be a key issue to watch.
Outdoor developments usually bring up the issue of noise and light pollution, and Werner's firm has indicated it will make limiting those issues an important part of the design process. The plans note that the go-karts will be electric rather than gas powered. The go-kart manufacturer advertises that the machines make noise equal to or less than a vehicle traveling down a road at about 20 to 30 mph.
The plan also will include significant landscaping to address lighting issues. Preliminary plans call for the business to be open well into the nighttime hours. According to a document submitted as part of the plans, the current thinking is for the business to be open until 10 p.m. on most weeknights, but open until midnight Thursday through Saturday.
Again, we'll see how the development progresses, but certainly the question of why Lawrence doesn't have a miniature golf business has been one that people have asked me frequently over the years (It probably was because I was wearing my Chi Chi Rodriguez slacks at the time.) Many of you probably remember that Lawrence did have a miniature golf and batting cage complex at 31st and Iowa streets well into the 1990s. But that site eventually was redeveloped as the location for Douglas County Bank. I had always been told high land prices had made such developments difficult, but the economic downturn may have changed that equation a bit.
In other news and notes around town:
• I'm still gathering some details on this, but city commissioners are being asked to work with another company that has plans to bring super high-speed Internet to the area.
City commissioners at their 6:35 p.m. meeting tonight will consider approving a right-of-way agreement with Baldwin City-based Dawn Fiber LLC. The company wants to install about 19,000 linear feet of conduit and fiber on city rights-of-way in various parts of central and eastern Lawrence. Locations include: Fifth and Tennessee; 11th and Tennessee; 11th and Haskell; 19th and Haskell; 19th and Harper; and 23rd and Harper. Plans call for the fiber also to be extended across the rural areas of the county and connected with Dawn Fiber's headquarters in Baldwin City.
City staff members are recommending approval of the deal because the right-of-way license agreement would ensure that a portion of the fiber could be used by the city of Lawrence for governmental uses. That opens up the possibility of the city high-speed Internet connections to traffic signals in central and eastern Lawrence, water towers in the area, an a multitude of city buildings, including: the Fire Training Center at 19th and Haskell, the central maintenance garage at 11th and Haskell, the East Lawrence Recreation Center at 1245 E. 15th Street, the Carnegie Building at Ninth and Vermont streets, and several other parks and recreation and maintenance buildings. Importantly, the new fiber route also would allow the city to easily connect with the statewide Kansas Fiber Network, which is an association of 29 rural Kansas telephone companies that offer a variety of services including wholesale Internet services to large users like governments.
What I'm still gathering details on is whether Dawn Fiber, which operates under the name Free State Broadband, plans to use the Lawrence fiber to offer residential and commercial Internet service in Lawrence, or whether this fiber installation is just part of its previously announced plans to bring high-speed Internet service to Baldwin City. I'll update you when I get more information.
UPDATE: I talked with an executive at Dawn Fiber, and current plans don't call for the company to offer residential or commercial service in Lawrence. The company plans to use the new fiber to support its efforts to wire Baldwin City with high speed Internet service.
• There's also news regarding the request by Lawrence-based Wicked Broadband for $500,000 city grant to help with a pilot project to bring super-fast Internet to parts of downtown and East Lawrence. Originally, the city's Public Incentives Review Committee was scheduled to meet and discuss the request today. But that meeting has been postponed to Jan. 21.
I'm not sure what has caused the delay, but based on the last city memo I saw, the city's staff members are not recommending approval of the grant request. I won't get into all of that now because I'm still gathering information from city and Wicked officials on the request, but I'll hope to have more on that in the coming days.