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Construction crews racing to get Rock Chalk Park finished for KU Relays; trash day to change for many Lawrence households


Maybe you are like me on this sad morning: sleep-deprived and desperately looking for something to take your mind off that Jayhawk basketball game. No, the loss didn't keep me up, but that freaky looking Stanford Tree on the sideline sure did. (Stanford's earth science professors must be very proud.)

I've always found quickly switching gears to another sport helps ease March Madness heartbreak. (Easing heartbreak and the Kansas City Royals have always gone hand in hand.) But perhaps track and field is just the sport this year. After all, KU has a National Championship program.

It also has a race of a different type on its hands this year. Construction crews are racing to complete a long list of items to make the new Rock Chalk Park track and field stadium ready to host the Kansas Relays in mid-April.

As we previously reported, the university will be seeking a temporary occupancy permit that will allow the Kansas Relays to be held at Rock Chalk Park from April 16 to 19. City officials recently have provided a substantial list of improvements that need to be made to infrastructure at the site in order for the city to issue the temporary occupancy permit.

The list includes some concrete work that has been done but apparently hasn't held up well since its recent construction. Crews are being instructed by the city to replace 13 panels of concrete on Rock Chalk Drive that have significant cracking. The city is requiring removal of the concrete, re-installation of dowel bars, and pouring of new concrete as a condition of approval for the temporary occupancy permit.

If you remember, we previously reported that an inspector at the site noticed in November that crews incorrectly had prepared an area for a concrete pour. When notified of the incorrect methods, construction crews went ahead with the pour anyway. City staff members have said that joint needs to be repaired, and they have listed that area as needing replacement before the the temporary permit will be issued.

City officials previously have said they are pleased with the overall quality of the concrete work and other work being conducted by Bliss Sports, the Lawrence-based firm that was awarded the no-bid contract to build the infrastructure at the site. It also should be noted that there are hundreds, if not more than a thousand, panels of concrete that have been poured at the Rock Chalk site, so I will leave it to people more experienced than I to figure out whether the current cracking problems are anything unusual.

In addition to replacing some concrete, there are several other items that need to be addressed before the Relays can be held at the new facility, which is expected to be one of the top track and field venues in the country. Here's a look at the other items city officials are requiring for the permit:

— Completion of at least five different street intersections at or near the site;

— Sealing of all joints along Rock Chalk Drive and George Williams Way;

— Completion of public sidewalks leading to the stadium;

— Completion of curbs and gutters for streets and parking lots that will be used for the relays;

— Installation of traffic signs.

With a little bit of help from Mother Nature, I expect construction crews will figure out how to get all that done. But one issue that wasn't addressed in the city memo I saw is the issue of lighting at the site. City officials have conceded that they erred by allowing work to begin at the site prior to city commissioners approving a lighting plan for the project. A neighbor to the site, Jack Graham, has expressed concern about the current lighting situation, and the last we reported was that city officials were still reviewing information on the lighting. City commissioners haven't yet approved a lighting plan for the site.

I'm not sure how much of the Kansas Relays is planned to be held under lights. I'll do some checking around, though, to determine whether the lighting issue is something that will have to be addressed prior to the Relays receiving a city permit. City commissioners are scheduled to receive a briefing on the issue at their Tuesday evening meeting.

In the meantime, I'll also try to get that Stanford Tree out of my head once and for all. I'm not sure track and field is going to do it, but I have figured out what will: golf. Give me a driver and a golf ball, and I can guarantee that tree will get what's coming to it.

In other news and notes around town:

• Here's a bold prediction: A few Lawrence garages may stink for the first couple of weeks in May. That's because a few people may forget to set out the trash on the right day in early May as the city implements a major change in its trash route system.

The city on May 6 plans to implement a new route system that will change when trash is picked up for about half the households in the city. The change is part of the city's preparations to implement a curbside recycling program in October.

There is no easy way for me to describe the changes, so I'll point you to the map below. It shows which days of the week neighborhoods will be served.

A map of the proposed trash routes for the city. The new routes are scheduled to begin on May 6. Photo: City of Lawrence

A map of the proposed trash routes for the city. The new routes are scheduled to begin on May 6. Photo: City of Lawrence by Chad Lawhorn

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