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Lawrence Chamber of Commerce takes official stance in favor of $25M recreation center, proposed Rock Chalk Park


It sure feels like the proposal to build a $25 million city recreation center as part of a public-private Rock Chalk Park in northwest Lawrence is entering a new phase.

Another large community group has taken a formal position on the project. This time, it is the Lawrence Chamber of Commerce, and the city’s largest business organization is supportive of the project.

“The entire Lawrence community will benefit from this world-class facility,” Doug Gaumer, chair of the chamber's board of directors, said in a statement. “The Rock Chalk Park Sports Park project will help build our community’s infrastructure and enhance the amenities and quality of life that make Lawrence a desirable place to live and work.”

If you remember last week, the Lawrence Association of Neighborhoods — the city’s largest neighborhood organization — issued an official position that it thought the city should hold a citywide election on the idea of whether the city should proceed with the $25 million regional recreation center portion of the project. It also expressed concerns that the recreation center project is proposed go through a bidding process that deviates from the city’s typical bidding policy.

The chamber in its statement on Monday said it does not see the need for a citywide election.

“We understand that no tax increase will be necessary for construction of this project and therefore no public vote on the issue is necessary,” Gaumer said in the statement. “We urge the city approve the necessary zoning and special use permit necessary to build Rock Chalk Sports Park, and provide a much-needed and long-overdue amenity for its citizens.”

City commissioners are scheduled to vote on the zoning and the special use permit for the project at their Tuesday evening meeting. Tuesday’s vote, however, doesn’t yet commit the city to build the $25 million recreation center portion of the project.

Commissioners won’t make any commitments to build the recreation center at the site until they have been presented with formal agreements between KU entities and a private company led by Lawrence businessman Thomas Fritzel, who are all part of the proposed partnership for the park.

The city is projecting those agreements will be completed by the commission’s Feb. 19 meeting.


dougfirst 5 years, 5 months ago

Yes, Doug Gaumer is also Thomas Fritzel's next door neighbor. How convenient.

Alpenglow 5 years, 5 months ago

No, Doug just believes in bringing JOBS to Douglas County. Period.

pz5g1 5 years, 5 months ago

What jobs besides some temporary construction jobs?

KiferGhost 5 years, 5 months ago

Bull, the mantra of bringing jobs is a load of crap. This town has no clue how to create real jobs that actually pay a decent salary, not as much as the professional jobs you clowns want, but jobs for the rest of the city. This is a bail out for the developer who took the risk on purchasing the land and now the city is bailing him out using the developer who has proven to screw the town the most.

Cant_have_it_both_ways 5 years, 5 months ago

If the chamber gets it way with the strong beer legislation and the sales tax revenue generated from the sale of 3.2 beer is lost, I hope they have an answer to the tax base as to where they are going to get the money to pay for this recreation center.

Clovis Sangrail 5 years, 5 months ago

"Lawrence Chamber of Commerce takes official stance in favor of $25M recreation center"

I'll take "The Bloody Obvious" for $1000, Alex.

Catalano 5 years, 5 months ago

PULEEZE run for city commission, Wilby! I'm serious. At least you'd make the candidate forums entertaining!

Catalano 5 years, 5 months ago

And I have your logo ready:

One-Eyed Wilbur for City Commission!

One-Eyed Wilbur for City Commission! by Catalano

jack22 5 years, 5 months ago

To hear Doug Gaumer explain his support, you'd think that by building this "world class" recreation center Lawrence will now be in contention to host the Summer Olympics. Get real, there's nothing "world class" about a 25 million dollar ersatz warehouse with basketball and volleyball courts located in the middle of a cornfield on the outskirts of a small city. I'm sure when compared with what's being built in Kansas City, calling our recreation center "world class" will elicit spontaneous laughter from anyone who lives outside of our state.

Richard Heckler 5 years, 5 months ago

Please pull from the agenda for the following reasons:

I have concerns that the proposed Rock Chalk bidding process won’t adequately protect the public.

What conditions must be met in order for a private company to own the majority of the facilities on property zoned for public and institutional uses?

Mr. Fritzel has the inside track to be the builder of the city’s $25 million recreation center through a process that deviates significantly from the city’s standard bidding process.

Mr. Fritzel is a key driving force in this proposed project, in spite of the fact he has not publicly outlined his vision or what he sees as his role in the project either at a City Commission meeting or at a public forum.

Mr. Fritzel will have the ability to use the facilities for other events, if certain conditions are met. Such as ?

The city hasn’t fully weighed the recreation center project against other needed city projects.

The number $25 million is mentioned frequently BUT what about cost for new infrastructure? Who eats this cost? Is it split? If so how?

What are the agreements between all concerned parties? Where can these “agreements” be viewed by the taxpayers?

According to the agenda it appears the City Commission is moving forward hurriedly in spite of not having reviewed all "agreement documents" and without knowing actual dollar amounts.

I am requesting that the Rock Chalk project be pulled from the agenda until such time that all necessary documents have been reviewed and presented to the taxpayers for review?

I am also request that the Rock Chalk project be pulled from the agenda until such time that all necessary tax dollar cost numbers are locked in and presented to the public for review.

In the last 15 months, there have been 17 letters to the editor and 14 LJW editorials opposing/questioning this rec center project. I have never seen such outcry in this community.

Richard Heckler 5 years, 5 months ago

Do you think there should be a citywide vote on a new rec center? http://www2.ljworld.com/polls/2013/jan/do-you-think-there-should-be-city-wide-vote-creati/ interesting yet not surprising results thus far.

Alternative Rec Center Project

KU athletics has plenty of money they DO NOT need my tax dollars.

This has been a recklessly presented endeavor from day one. Should have been tabled forever. One more reason this project should be put before the voters.

What could be the alternative?

How can Lawrence taxpayers get the best bang for our 1994 sales tax bucks and improve the quality of life for families throughout the entire community?

Construct a NW neighborhood rec center with 2-3 gyms and a walking/jogging track for public exercise probably for about $10 million. Now we have achieved shoring up the alleged lack of court space.

Connect the Burroughs Creek hike and bike path to the river levy by way off Hobbs Park through the new development in the "eastside warehouse district". A design path has been created so lets get on with it. Maybe cost $200,000.

In doing the above Lawrence,Kansas has effectively improved the quality of life for more families throughout the sales tax dollar community. This is definitely within the spirit of the 1994 sales tax that was approved by families throughout the community.

A best bang for our 1994 sales tax dollars and taxpayers as stakeholders. With a few bucks left over for new landscaping in the "eastside warehouse district" in addition to Rhode Island and Vermont in downtown.

Water 5 years, 5 months ago

"Connect the Burroughs Creek hike and bike path to the river levy by way off Hobbs Park......$200,000". Dude, one Eagle Scout wannabe, twelve boy scouts, six weekends and it's done. Don't use concrete just the city's woodchip and mulch piles.

Richard Heckler 5 years, 5 months ago

Want to attract higher wage employment to Lawrence, Ks. ?

Invest in the future by way of developing safe walking pathways and safe bicycling pathways. Parents want to feel confident that their children can walk and bike safely to school.

And adults want to feel confident that they can walk and bike safely to employment,grocery shopping and socializing.

All of the above could be accomplished for millions upon millions less that the Rock Chalk Park. Throw in a NW Lawrence Rec Center and taxpaying citizens would STILL be millions upon millions of tax $$$$$ ahead.

Tim Herndon 5 years, 5 months ago

Doesn't really seem like a good night for adults to go on a bike ride to the supermarket and/or to socialize.

The naysayers weighing-in above have done:

a) __ to increase Lawrence's quality of life; b) to lower taxes for average homeowners; c) __ to create public programs; d) to improve tourism revenue; e) _ to support those who produce payroll

Please, fill in the blanks to enhance the credibility of these individuals and to convince the rest of us to echo their message. Thanks.

KiferGhost 5 years, 5 months ago

What a big surprise that the organization so deeply involved with the PLAY agenda from the get go is going along with themselves on this. Crony capitalism because Lawrence can't produce real business people. What a bold step, developing farm land owned by one of the big developers who couldn't lure Lowe's to the location as planned. Hopefully someday a book is written so the con game so all these frauds will live in infamy.

no_thanks 5 years, 5 months ago

Given your leanings, I find it hard to imagine you know what is involved with attracting and retaining jobs. With that said, don't blame the lack of job growth on crony capitalism. The no growth community has won the past decade. They have elected Commissioners who make it difficult and expensive for businesses to invest in Lawrence. Who would want to go through the planning process here when there are other communities that make it rather easy to relocate (they have shovel ready sites, zoning is in place, incentives are provided, and they have a strong labor pool to draw from). We are learning from our past mistakes by developing Farmland, promoting a Vo-Tech campus, and a strengthened partnership between the City, County, KU, and the Chamber. These are small steps in the right direction.

By the way, the owner of the ground is a developer but not the one who was trying to attract Lowe's. This is a fantastic location that allows the City to partner with KU in making a recreational destination that will pay dividends with every tournament, track meet, or other event.

KiferGhost 5 years, 5 months ago

What a clown. Tell me, how many businesses have rushed to Lawrence since the evil three have left office as you surely must refer to them? Let's see, you have forced the city to fund what started out as a bioscience incubator that suddenly turned into hand outs to corporate giants and what have we got from that? Garmin is only 30 miles away, I doubt a presence in rent subsidized housing was really necessary. Please do tell me since it has been a number of years since those awful socialist commissioners left what great enterprise has occurred in Lawrence since? The chamber in this town is a joke and people who know nothing about getting their hands dirty in real enterprise and would rather attend parties impressing themselves is the extend of it. Admit it, the bedroom community deal was easy in the 00's and now you are clueless.

Oh by the way, there are plenty of studies proving that sports are not economic drivers like you clowns believe.

You must not know as much as you think, Lowes was suppose to locate at Mercato before the Compton deal. It is a big monopoly game for the big players.

KiferGhost 5 years, 5 months ago

I should clarify, there are real business people in Lawrence but they don't seem to be as involved in all the chamber crap. People like founder of the Free State and Wheatfields, the owner of Waxman's, the Birkenstock guy, all the types I think of as small business people as it used to be referred to. They know something about getting their hands dirty and making a business work. It is a little more complicated than just buying land and suckering the city into providing infrastructure and more.

no_thanks 5 years, 5 months ago

Just as I expected. You have no idea how to create jobs or build a business. But you are right about one thing, Companies aren't rushing here, but to blame that on the Chamber is disingenuous. It takes time to reverse the damage done by the PLC, and unfortunately, we are still battling the issues (lack of shovel ready sites, onerous and expensive planning department, etc...). There are numerous studies that prove sports are economic drivers, especially in college towns. As painful as it is for you to hear, sports is a much stronger driver than the Arts, but what you likely don't know is that te Chamber is supportive of Arts driven projects as well. As for the last point, Schwada owns Mercato. Stultz owns the ground where Rock Chalk Park is being located.

KiferGhost 5 years, 5 months ago

And a sportplex is the answer? Come on, just more lame brained sports crap after we have already spent millions on high school facilities when we have schools that needed repairs. Here is the deal as I see it, build the sports plex, play the tax games by running it through endowment but keep the city out of it. If there is so much money in sports as you contend run it as a private operation. Funny thing is, you people never want to do that because you know sports don't make money and have to cook up numbers but let's face it, the idea is to develop this so Mercato can build hotels and restaurants to make money off of it so the benefits for the town are will be watered down by the new strip enterprises near this thing. It is a dead idea, just like west Lawrence has proven it isn't enough and has to continue going on because otherwise it dies on the vine.

Too bad west Lawrence isn't separate from old Lawrence and then we could see how well all that growth crap works. Check out Iowa City and their version of west Lawrence, Coralville which is a separate city and close to bankruptcy..

KiferGhost 5 years, 5 months ago

Hope all those west Lawrence people who were whining about their cul de sacs not being cleared of snow fast enough a few years ago appreciate that the city will be responsible for clearing the snow at the megaplex. Wonder which will get priority?

KiferGhost 5 years, 5 months ago

What a joke, the big business pretend man still blaming the problems of Lawrence on the three amigos. Fritzel pushed the county and the city to develop his warehouse miles from any infrastructure without any problems. Talk about an idiotic idea and yet the everyone went along and provided new wider roads, water, etc. And are you saying the small business people who created the businesses that people actually think of when they think of Lawrence aren't creating jobs?! You prove you know nothing about business!

KiferGhost 5 years, 5 months ago

No shovel ready sites? Farmland is ready to be used but no one wants to step up to the plate and would rather develop farm land because that is all the imagination the chambercrats have. There was land in the business park by the power plant sitting there forever and eventually the beer company moved from the warehouse they already had in east Lawrence to what should be used by an industrial company but Lawrence doesn't understand industrial, that's why Free State didn't have a shop when it opened because everyone was going to be an information worker! No imagination, this town lead by the lame brained chamber couldn't figure out how to run a real business if it had to. Spin is what Lawrence specializes in.

no_thanks 5 years, 5 months ago

Would love to see Old Lawrence pay for the Library, the swimming pool, the remodel of The Carnegie Building and Poehler Buildings, etc... if these things are so profitable, why not run them as private operations? The reason is because they are believed to be assets that make the Community better. If this was a discussion about the Arts, or the hundreds of thousands we spend on social services each year, my guess is you would have a different position. If so, them it isn't about lowering taxes, its just that you are anti-sports/anti-development. With that said, I will concur that a district stadium/ sports complex would have been a much better use of community resources than individual fields, and might have led to this investment not being necessary, or at least scaled down.

KiferGhost 5 years, 5 months ago

Wow, easy to say after they are already build. I"m anti-stupid. How many ways can we be screwed by the same people before we say enough. Not only are we not saying enough but we are fast tracking this when there is plenty saying it should be put up to vote.

I'd love to be paying for a new library that we could be proud of but instead we are paying for a parking garage that benefits the same developers and a disgusting remodel of the library. At least people got to vote for it.

minimadoff 5 years, 5 months ago

Doug Gaumer works for Intrust Bank. Thomas Fritzel's father-in-law is one of directors on board of directors of Intrust Bank.

Small world...

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 5 months ago

"Thomas Fritzel's father-in-law"

Who is reportedly the main moneybags behind the KU part of this project. But apparently they need the city's money to make this thing profitable.

irvan moore 5 years, 5 months ago

i kinda think that if (ok, when) the rec center is approved it will keep the school bond from being passed, nobody can seriously believe our taxes aren't going up

gccs14r 5 years, 5 months ago

If the Chamber is for something, it's a good bet that it's bad for Lawrence.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 5 months ago

“We understand that no tax increase will be necessary for construction of this project and therefore no public vote on the issue is necessary,” Gaumer said in the statement.

This is an extremely disingenuous statement. The sales taxes that will be required to pay for this facility have not been levied or collected yet. Voters should be given the opportunity to have a say in whether they want to be paying for this facility for the next 20 years.

Over the last 20 years, this tax has paid for several different projects. If this project happens, that tax will pay for one project, and one project only. Voters, and only voters, should be the ones to make the decision of whether that should happen or not. It shouldn't be decided by movers and shakers in what has to be one of the most secretive, nontransparent and anti-democratic processes in recent memory. If this doesn't go to a vote, city commissioners should be forced to hang their heads in shame.

Put it to a vote. And while we're at it, let voters decide if they want to put in the sunset clause this tax should have had in the first place-- if it was in there, there'd have been no question of whether to have a vote or not.

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