Questions From the September 24, 2012

MADRE Lawrence Forum On NW Rec Center/Sports Village Proposal


Editor’s Notes:

Madre Lawrence wishes to extend their gratitude to all who attended the town hall forum.

We are grateful that City Commissioners attended, and that City Manager Dave Corliss was able and willing to answer questions.


The following questions from the forum have been grouped into categories. What we are calling the “the values and priorities” questions are listed at the very bottom of this document.


For questions that we offer answers to, those answers are indicated (parenthetically), in italics.


While we do not expect the City manager’s office to necessarily answer all of the questions herein, we do invite the City Manager’s office to add whatever information they can, and to clarify or correct answers that we have provided if they believe the answers provided are inaccurate.


We are not asking the City Manager to respond to the “values and priorities” questions and comments. We believe that these are questions that the City Commissioners, alone, will have to wrestle with. We just want to record all of the questions that were asked, so that participants in the forum can be assured that the City Commission is made aware of what issues and concerns were raised about this project.


When answers are received from the City, we intend to submit the final document to the City Commission and respectfully request that the final document be made part of the public record. We suggest that the City create a FAQ for their webpage, to address commonly asked questions about this project.


Again, many thanks to all!


Laura Routh, on behalf of MADRE Lawrence.



Could gyms be added elsewhere? (I.e. at other existing rec centers, schools and KU) Or, could tournaments be split between several locations?

·         Gyms could be added at other centers, but it would disrupt the park or other facilities nearby.

·         Additional square feet to a building would add additional support facilities –more restrooms, concessions, parking, etc.  This would be a consideration. 

·         Having a tournament at one location is more desirable by tournament planners because they do not have to duplicate tournament staff at numerous locations; participants only have to go to one location and not travel to other locations across town; parents with more than one child in varying age brackets are better served by one location.  Tournament costs are lower at one location than multiple locations.


Why do we need an indoor walking track? Why can’t we just build more sidewalks to make walking as a pedestrian, safe? (These are two separate questions. An indoor walking track is seen as necessary for the elderly or alter-abled, or in the event of inclement weather. This issue of how to make Lawrence more pedestrian friendly and thus outdoor walking safer is a different topic, perhaps).


·         One of the most asked questions the City receives at our parks and recreation office is “where can we walk and jog indoors where the climate is controlled?”  This is especially important to the elderly and disabled, as well as individuals just beginning to exercise.

·         In the city survey, the citizens of Lawrence continue to list having more biking/walking trails as a priority – this is always on our improvements lists and will continue to be something that is added to on a regular schedule as funds are available.

·         Currently, scheduled times for walking are provided, but this doesn’t allow for other gym usage due to safety concerns for walkers. 

·         The City also has been investing significantly in addressing gaps in the sidewalk system and believes that having a good pedestrian system is also very important. 


What will the City do to keep smaller rec centers from being neglected or abandoned, if this larger facility is built?


·         The Parks and Recreation Department is responsible for over 3500 acres of parks, which include: playgrounds, shelters, athletic fields, aquatic facilities, recreation centers, landscapes, right of ways, cemetery, etc.  The Department evaluates needs and set priorities for all facilities, regardless of size.  Many facilities over the past 20 years have been constructed - youth and adult sports complexes, aquatic centers.  Maintenance is, and will continue to be, a top priority for all facilities.


Is the primary purpose of this project to serve the recreational needs of the community, or to serve economic development desires and KU?


·         The primary purpose has always been to meet the community’s need for additional facility space.  According to national statistics, our community is 18-20 public gymnasiums short of what is recommended for a community the size of Lawrence.   We have numerous programs that cannot be offered and others that are limited due to space. This proposed recreation facility will alleviate that issue, as well as allow current neighborhood center gyms to be available for other community programs and open gym.

·         A multi- gym facility would allow the opportunity to host numerous tournaments for potential economic development for Lawrence.

·         Collaborating with KU allows the opportunity to share parking and have a larger site with additional amenities than the Overland site.


What about the rec needs of the SE side? Why not build it at Farmland?


·         Previously conducted studies by the City’s Park and Recreation Department have identified NW Lawrence as lacking adequate recreation facilities. 

·         The former Farmland site was recently master-planned for a new business park and there is a strong consensus that this property should be utilized for future industrial opportunities.   Using the former Farmland property for non-industrial purposes greatly reduces the opportunity to meet one of our top community goals – increasing inventory of available property for primary job employers.


What about North Lawrence and their recreation needs?

·   Again, studies have identified the needs in NW Lawrence.  However it is important to note that everyone in Lawrence will be able to utilize the facility, even those with limited transportation options, via the Lawrence Transit system.


How will this proposal help the youth of Lawrence? Will it really get kids off the streets and keep them out of trouble?  Will it help all kids, or only those that are already plugged into athletics?


·         Lawrence Parks and Recreation offers much more than sports. We offer more than 450 different programs and activities each season for adults and children. This facility will provide us more opportunity to expand our offerings, and as mentioned above, allow us to make neighborhood centers more available for the public.

·         Statistics show that children who participate in structured activities are less likely to get involved in activities detrimental to themselves and others.  With a diversity of programming, we are providing children an opportunity to take part in structured activities that assist in building positive skills and self-esteem.


How much of the facility will be available to the public during KU and Regional tournaments? What about the adequacy of parking?


·         The center will always be open to the public for center activities. During very large KU meets, like the KU Relays, we will not schedule large tournaments that would conflict with these events.  This site will have adequate parking for events with natural areas for over- flow parking, if and when it is needed.



Who will pay for what?


Editor’s note: It is strongly suggested that the city develop a detailed pie chart showing the relative allocation of costs/sharing


Does the 24 million dollar price tag cover the cost of infrastructure?

The brochure on recreation center options outlined the estimated costs by category of the options on the KU site and the Overland Drive site. 


Where are the concrete plans for site development and costs?  Estimates have been developed and are included in the brochure, as noted. 


How much will developers (i.e. Mercato, Schwada) pay for infrastructure at the site?  Not sure what  infrastructure costs for private development are being inferred.


How much will it cost to advertise and promote tournaments? Who will pay for this?


·         Many times the facility will be rented by tournament organizers, i.e. AAU, Special Olympics, youth volleyball organizations, etc.

·         Parks and Recreation will also host its own tournaments with team entry fees covering the costs.  The City plans to have staff members and Convention & Visitors Bureau staff involved in marketing the facility for potential tournaments.


Why can’t the City pay as it goes and only build what it can afford, now?   Most capital projects of any size have involved City issuance of debt.  One of the advantages of issuing debt for large capital projects is that future residents –not just current residents – will assist in paying for the facility.  This project is not anticipated to involve additional taxes but use existing revenue from the City share of County sales tax and City debt plan.


Will the City provide an estimate of how this same amount of money ($24 million +) might be spread around to expand and improve all other rec facilities?   

·   This question of expanding existing recreation centers has been previously answered.  It doesn’t offer efficient options due to the site limitations associated with the other recreation centers. 


The Park and Recreation Department spent years working on a proposal for a smaller community recreation center at Free State HS. Will the City be providing an estimate of those costs for comparison to the new proposal? 

·   A cost estimate has been prepared for the KU and Overland Drive site and these are compared in the brochure previously mentioned. 


Are we overextending the City’s finances, and over-expanding our debt obligations?

·   Projections assuming 2% and 3% growth of existing sales tax resources indicate that either project option proposed could be undertaken within the natural growth of existing resources. 


Why isn’t the City putting the construction of the project up for public bid?

·   KUEA – the future owner of the Rock Chalk Park site (KUEA will transfer the recreation center site to the City after construction) desires to control the entire construction process to ensure quality and coordination of the project, thus City bidding is not anticipated at the Rock Chalk site.


How much will the Bliss foundation and the Assists foundation donations be worth?

·   The City doesn’t have information on this question.


What happens if the projected revenue—i.e. $600K from fees and tournaments projected to cover annual operational costs--does not manifest?


·         Parks and Recreation budgets are currently based on projections of user fees to supplement sales tax for the operations of programs and recreation facilities.  We manage many budgets based on revenue projections and this will be no different. 


How much of the $24K price tag does the City actually have in the bank, right now?

·   The fund used for these purposes has a balance of approximately $2.5 million.


What are the estimated annual operational costs?

·   After operating costs  of approximately $ 1million (utilities, staff, etc.) and all revenues (tournament fees, league fees, etc.) are projected, we estimate that it will require approximately $350,000 per year in sales tax dollars – in the parks and recreation sales tax account – to balance revenues and expenditures.


Why is this estimate so much less than the $900K that was put forth for operation of the originally proposed site?


·          Not certain about the reference.    We have updated projections as the size of the facility has changed.


Are there other developer-financed projects that the City can provide as examples of how this will work?   This is a unique opportunity and a unique project, we don’t have any similar examples of this type of public-private partnership.


Is the estimate of 30 tournaments a year realistic, or is it speculative? Who will promote and market tournaments? How will that staff time be paid for?


·         Parks and Recreation staff believes that 30 tournaments annually are realistic.  Staff time will be financed through fees charged to participants (city-run tournaments) or to the entity hosting the tournament.  City staff time will be budgeted in the same way that it is currently recovered at other department facilities as part of the operations expense budget. 

·         Consultant who provided study also said the number of tournaments was on the conservative side.



What about cost overruns? Will this actually cost the city more than 24 million dollars?   The offer from KUEA is $25 million, with KUEA absorbing any cost overruns.   See staff memorandum concerning total costs, including interest costs for the facility.


Comment: The state Capitol had exorbitant cost overruns.

·   The costs are based upon estimates at this time.  If the project proceeds, there will be more refinements regarding costs. 



Is there, or will there be, competition from other cities? Aren’t some other cities sports complexes faltering, financially?


·         There may be other competition, but according to the independent Economic and Fiscal Impact Analysis this project makes a lot of sense for Lawrence and the potential positive economic impact it has for the city.


What if the regional aspect of the project fails?  Won’t the taxpayers be stuck holding the bag?


·         First, this facility will address the recreational needs of the community, which has been recognized from years of surveys and studies much like other community parks, aquatic centers, sports complexes, etc. 

·         The project has never projected the need for additional tax dollars.  It has been proposed to be built and financed through revenues generated from user fees and the 1994 one-cent sales tax. 


Aren’t there soccer fields already slated for the Legends Complex in Wyandotte County? Yes.  


Are there other active plans for the Legends site that might compete with Lawrence’s project? Do we want to risk public dollars in light of that possibility?  

·   We are aware that additional facilities near the Legends are being discussed, but understand that they have not been finalized. 



What is the advantage of partnering with KU?

·   The facility may allow some shared usage, for some events; shared parking; the campus complex may bring excitement and synergy to the overall facility.  A larger facility could leverage additional tournament and economic development opportunities for the community.

·   KU’s site is larger and offers the potential for more amenities. 


Who are the partners/players?

·         This depends upon the site and if the project proceeds.  If the project is done on the Overland Drive site, the City will likely be the only entity involved.  If the project takes place on the KU site, partners may include KU Endowment and KU Athletics.   


How much will KU pay for infrastructure at the site?  See the project matrix which notes that the City would pay $25 million at the Rock Chalk park site while the total costs are estimated at $33 million.


Will KU endowment have the final say on site design, partners, builders, etc.?   City staff recommends that the contract with KUEA include City approval of the design, specifications, and appropriate contractors.


Will the City have to pay KU to lease the land? No.   The proposal from KU Endowment provides for a turnkey project with the title for the recreation center property to be transferred to the City of Lawrence.   


Why can’t KU build their 3 projects on campus? Don’t they have room at 23rd and Iowa?

·         KU has determined where they wish to build their athletic facilities. 


Why isn’t Haskell being included as a partner?

·         KU has extended the invitation to the City of Lawrence.  The City facility will be open to all of the public. 


Who will coordinate and have control over tournaments? Will the public be able to park and use facility when tournaments (KU or regional) are going on? 

·         This has been previously answered.  Parking and tournament use would need to be coordinated.



Why is this site so far from the City center? What happens when gas goes to $4 or more? What will the City do if people are unwilling to drive to site?


·         There were similar comments when the Youth Sports Complex, the Indoor Aquatics Center and even when Holcom Park Recreation Center and sports complex were constructed. 

·         The large site size is not available in another more central location without affecting existing parks or facilities.

·         Lawrence Transit service is available to people with limited transportation options.  


Will seniors and youth really be inclined to take public transportation or drive to a site this far away? How will senior citizens get to a site so far away from the City center?  Lawrence Transit currently provides service for people in the community with limited transportation options.  For example, service is provided to the Indoor and Outdoor Aquatic Centers. 


What will happen with the NW corner, now that the City has annexed the land? Is the developer going to sue the City if the City doesn’t now provide infrastructure to the NW site? How much will that cost us?   The property owner at the northwest corner of 6th Street and K-10 has indicated a desire to master plan this property, including seeking land use approvals from the City.   We are not aware of any basis for a legal claim.


If we opt not to build on the George Williams way site, will KU proceed anyway?  

·         KU has indicated that it is proceeding with its project on the Rock Chalk park site regardless of whether the City is a partner at the location. 


Why does the facility have to be so big? It appears to be larger than all other rec centers, combined.


·         The proposed size has developed as the needs are examined. 

·         In order to allow additional space for tournaments, a larger size is needed. 


Comment: The relative size of the proposed facility is an equity issue, and short changes all other neighborhoods.


·         Like the Outdoor Aquatics Facility, Youth Sports Complex and the Indoor Aquatics Center, this facility will be programmed for more than other neighborhood recreation centers. It is a regional center that will not only take care of neighborhood needs but also will benefit the community.

·         One of the pressing issues is our shortage of gym space, and this facility will help alleviate  that concern and help take the pressure off of existing neighborhood recreation centers. 



Doesn’t the City have other pressing priorities? Drinking water intake? Wastewater plant? Storm water needs? Police needs? Code enforcement? Sidewalk infill? Street repair?

·         The City does have a variety of needs – many of those listed are dealt with by enterprise funds versus tax dollars.   The City Commission sets the priorities and resource allocation for these needs.   A number of these needs are being addressed:   we have received a multi-year water and wastewater plan and the City Commission will decide the appropriate water and sewer rate structure to financed needed improvements.  Our stormwater utility continues to meet our stormwater needs, additionally,  a major north Lawrence stormwater need is being met with the budgeted Maple St. drainage project currently under design.   We have added 5 new police officers and 2012 and will add 3 more new police officers in 2013,  with additional equipment resources as well.    We have made substantial progress on sidewalk infill projects and the 2008 infrastructure sales tax has assisted with street maintenance projects throughout the community.   It is important to note that the bulk of the City’s participation in a recreation center will come from the City’s share of the County sales tax which was devoted in part to parks and recreation needs.


Why aren’t we tending to the infrastructure and facilities we already have? Shouldn’t we spend this money on other things that we need, more?


·         Maintenance of current facilities and infrastructure is a priority of the City Commission.


Comment: there are “wants” and then there are “needs”. While we need a rec center, for the community, the City appears to want a mega-complex. Who benefits, really, from the mega-proposal?

·         The needs have been previously addressed in other answers.


Why won’t the City put this project up for a public vote?

·         That issue is up to the City Commission to decide, but the project does not require a vote.


Comment: The 1994 vote was a long time ago. It has no sunset. The voter’s opinion may have changed. The sales tax money was never intended to be used for speculative economic development activities.


·         This is not a speculative economic development activity.  First and foremost, this facility fills the needs of the recreational space for the community.


Will the City put this up for a public vote? If not, why not? What can citizens do to compel a public vote on this project?

·         That issue is up to the City Commission to decide, but the project does not require a vote.


What can folks who disagree with this project do, now?


·         There have been numerous City Commission meetings regarding this issue and there will be more.  Please come to the meetings or contact to the City Commissioners.   The next general public meeting on the subject is November 8 from 7-8 pm at Free State High School.  The next scheduled discussion by the City Commission is at its November 13 meeting, which is held at 6:35 pm at City Hall.