Sunday, March 9, 2014

World Class My A##!

The city of Lawrence, Kansas got horns waggled by the University of Kansas.  The city put up a butt load of money to build some world class facilities for K.U.'s athletic teams including a brand new track and field facility.  Just recently an article graced the Lawrence Journal-World touting the fact that K.U.'s brand new track facility is one of only five facilities in the United States that is considered top tier.

You would think the University would be ready to roll out the new facility for this April's Kansas Relays with a whole roster of world class athletes ready to do battle on this super-duper track.  Think again.  K.U. decided the $200,000 it spends on bringing a handful of Olympic caliber athletes to the Relays is just too big a burden for its $70,000,000 athletics budget. 

That means K.U. has a world class facility that will now host a glorified high school track meet with a few dozen top caliber collegians thrown in for good measure.  Any pro that wants to run in Lawrence will do so on their own dime.

The K.U. Relays used to be one of the nation's premier track and field meets.  A long slide started after 1972 with Jim Ryun's last appearance and was accelerated when John McDonough got pissed at Bob Timmons and pulled Arkansas out of the meet in the late 70's that began an exodus of top collegiate teams that crippled the meet.

An appearance by a team from the Soviet Union in the early 1980's was about the only bright spot until the late 1990's when the Relays started luring some top flight runners to the meet.  Olympians like Maurice Greene, Alan Webb, Christian Cantwell and Bershawn Jackson helped bring some excitement to an otherwise flagging event.

A stroke of genius put the shot put smack dab in the middle of downtown Lawrence putting one of the U.S.A.'s strongest events center stage.  It was a great spectacle that helped draw people to downtown.  The money spent on pro athletes kept crowds at a reasonable levels and in turn helped put money into city coffers.

Now K.U.'s athletic department has pulled a nice bait and switch.  They got a new track facility, but heaven forbid it spends anything to bring in some athletes that might attract some crowds to the city and in turn generate tax revenue for the city that put up millions of dollars to build those new facilities.  The University of Kansas owes the city and the businessmen and politicians who supported this project a better explanation than the one that currently graces the pages of the Journal-World.  As a track and field fan and a graduate of Kansas, I'm outraged.

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