Hearne: The Sorry State of Affairs in Lawrence & Fond Adieu to MU

Think things are bad in Kansas City, it’s no cakewalk in Lawrence these days either…

That according to businessman John Kiefer, the owner of Kiefs Audio / Video and numerous shopping center and real estate properties around the city.

"Look at the last few months in Lawrence," Kiefer says. "Sears is going to close – that’s an 80,000 square foot store. Old Navy is going to close – that’s a 20,000 square foot store. Borders is gone and nobody’s leased that space. Blockbuster had a pretty good size store on 23rd Street and they’re gone. And downtown people are going in and out like crazy."

And the days appear numbered for big box stores like Best Buy, Kiefer says.

"Best Buy today is starting to be labled by the students as a fancy ass Radio Shack," he says. "What do they even have in audio? They don’t even have sound rooms. Best Buy has a problem because they’re the last remaining (audio/video) specialty store. Now if KU was the only good basketball team in the country, who would they have to play?"

Any signs Lawrence may be poised to mount a comeback?

"Well, we like to brag that we are," Kiefer quips. "We have 80,000 people in Lawrence with half of them either students or student affiliated."

However, Lawrence’s vaunted downtown is rapidly turning into Aggieville East.

"It’s called the Central Business District," Kiefer says. "But every building that goes vacant turns into a bar, a restaurant or a game store."

Retail is dying because while students and shoppers can price shop most goods on the Web, ‘You can’t buy food and liquor on the Internet," Kiefer says. "Look at what’s there closely. There’s very little retail."

Which brings us to Lawrence’s, uh, sports economy.

Kiefer is bullish on KU Football, "because we have a new coach who has a tremendous record with guys in the pros," he says. "Last year couldn’t have been worse and we have a weaker schedule this year, so we’ll win some games. Our last coach (Turner Gill) left us with some good players in the backfield but no offensive line. So even though people criticize our last coach, he did a good job but our alumni didn’t want to wait."

Kiefer’s take on Missouri leaving the Big 12?

"Who cares? I don’t. Our rivalry was a wonderful thing, but there was no rivalry in basketball and in football they beat us. The last time we had a basketball rivalry was when they had Norm Stewart."

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10 Responses to Hearne: The Sorry State of Affairs in Lawrence & Fond Adieu to MU

  1. Orphan of the Road says:

    Bullish on KU football
    My cousin’s most prestigious job was teaching at KU. He molded the mind of Susan Ford. He says it was the worst paying job he has had. I guess that includes the nights we played Teen Town for $20.

    I predict we’ll have an Irish Pope before KU wins the Big 12.

    Their basketball program is beyond reproach, while they shined the Big 8’s other teams were famous for yards-per-carry. They didn’t play a national caliber of basketball.

    It is sad the annual King of the Dipshit game is no mas.

    The biggest thing about both programs is their long history of playing each other.

    One thing the MU fans can find solace in, the rest of the state of Kansas would gladly nuke Lawrence too.

  2. harley says:

    on the other hand…the massive growth at MU
    according to top ku fans (hearne and kiefs owner) KU/Lawrence is dying. Makes sense. Lawrence has lived off
    its own ideas for years…and now the hawk is coming home to roost.
    Its dying. Not my words..but the words of the largest supporters of the program. retail is dying in lawrence even as
    it becomes a suburb of johnson county.
    Why? I don’t know. Probably because the city rested and fell asleep. The university is having problems. And if
    anyone read about brownbacks proposal to eliminate the mortgage interest deduction in kansas which according to
    the Nat. Assoc of Realtors will cause a huge 15% cut of home values and the elimination of the tax write off for
    charitable contributions which i’m guesing will kill ku and other universities attempt to get large dollar donations from
    supporters who are looking for huge taxbreaks. I’m not an attorney nor an accountant but the ending of deductions
    for charities has got to kill ku and all the large donors who want to help that state university. Add that to the cutsin
    education coming…the changing demographics in kansas especially in johnson county (the economic engine in
    the entire state) and yes…i can understand the problems ku/lawrence will have in the future.
    Now lets turn east and see what is happening in columbia. Since the change was announced to the
    sec the school is making huge changes. Licensing fees to the university (as as happened to Texas a and M)
    are going up. Texas a and m expects to doulbe their licensing revenue because their affiliation with the sec
    will mean bigger revenue for the school. Of the top 10 licensing rights schools in the nation over half are sec
    schools…mu will reap these rewards…in big additional dollars.
    Add to that the additional millions of dollars for tv and broadcast rights…estimated to be tens of millions of dollars.
    Add to that the additional revenue from ticket sales (missour now ranks 25th in football attendance nationally..ex[pect
    that to increase dramatically…an additional 15,000 tickets sold means millions more in gate receipts and additonal
    revenue. The increased exposure from the sec also will be huge for mu. MU just finshed a huge endowment
    program…worth a billion dollars.
    Mu wil also see more visibility with the sec. The midwest/rust belt is basically dying. Everything is moving south.
    MU with ties to southern states can reap additional rewards by investing and going after the bilions of dollars
    in potential dollars in that region. Wthe the move to the sec expect MU to get more research and developement funds.
    Enrollment is booming. I heard that theres no more room for students. My fraternity is booming. Out of state students
    enrollment is booming. One fraternity is experiencing double digit increases in out of state rush activities.
    Money is flowing into columbia. It sits between 2 major metro areas that are bringing more adn more
    capital into the area. I spoke with one of the larger local retailers and he says sales are doing well.
    This is differnet than retail in lawrence. People in lawrence have the option to spend their dollars in joco..being only
    a half hour drive. In columbia, the dollars are stayinig there. and with wealthy donors in the city expect there to
    be even more substantial growth. I would expect that the university will expand…and with their financial situation
    and cash situation they should be in excellent shape.
    Lawrence on the other hand is asleep. More bars won’t build that economy. I read where enrollment was down.
    So lawrene needs some new blood. I have enjoyed going there…and the downtown. And I hope it recovers
    from the economic downslide. But it has to reinvent itself. Or just become another “juco” city.
    And after taking a beating at the hands of the mu football tigers it could not get worse.
    HOpefully charlie brings back the team…self said the bball program is maxed out. And I see signs that self is
    thinking he’s been there long enough and moving on. Maybe not.
    But until they make some serious changes lawrenceis doomed to continue going downhill. It needs some new
    life put into it.
    For many ku fans they could not understand why mu made their move. Of course it was money money money.
    NO doubt. But mu and columbia believe that their future is so bright right now…that this fall is going to be
    huge…with a new spirit and life throughout the entire area that its all upward from this point. I look forward to
    the sept. 8 game with georgia in columbia and the game with alabama. Its new…fresh…and gives columbia and
    huge shot in the arm with signs of growth. It’s a 100% positivev move…
    Lawrence on the other hand…continues to struggle. Lawrencev needs to realize that life in this new era does
    not revolve around booze and basketball. We saw the priority the nation gave to basketball during the
    realignment process. Should the longhorn network fall apart and texas sees an opportunity to move to another
    conference it will look even worse for ku. Hopefully if that happens the big 10 expands and bring ku and kstate
    into the fold. Would be great for those 2 schools.
    Until then…someone better take the reins of that area and get a new marketing and promotional plan for the
    future..if not we could see really tough times in jayhawk land.

  3. Jayahwk Fan says:

    Yawn… another hatin on KU story…. what else is new? its gettin kinda boring around here

    I wonder why an SEC, like harley, is ALWAYS so concerned with a Big 12 school?

  4. harley says:

    jayhawk fan…its not hating on ku story
    i don’t think hearne is hating on ku…just pointing out the obstacles the city and university face. I am concerned with
    ku…my tax dollars go there..I want the school to prosper…we may compete on atheltic but i have had
    many cousins…nieces..nephews /friends that went there. The politicians are going to kill ku…theyre going to
    ruin the state with these new laws…no doubt about it..it wil have a negative impact on kansans like myself
    for years to come,.
    columbia has taken some risks…made some moves and maybe lawrence should look to do the same.
    MU took a long shot risk by moving…anbd hopefully it will work out for the better of the city/school.
    Lawrence needs some new thinking. The city has some real positives but as every city that has seen
    itslef have problems during this downturn they need to reinvent them selves.
    Nothing negative…i said lawrence needs some fresh ideas…and if not they face the same problems
    we’re seeing now in michigan/ohio/ etc. with cities not changing. Lawrence needs some new ideaa
    and without them they could face a serious problem. Brownback won’t help them.
    So they need to get some great minds together…find a new direction to bring in new business…improve the
    university…a better direction because they’re facing an uphill battle. And those that think its just about
    basketball they are mistaken. Hopefully the leaders will find a way to get moving again…nothing
    negative…just facts. I really like lawrence…went shopping there…but they need to ssave downtown and
    the retail tax base. If not…they will have serious problems.

  5. Jayhawk Fan says:

    Go away SEC boy…. Big 12 stories/KU stories dont concern you….

  6. Merle Tagladucci says:

    What a half-assed, bizarre column.

    Borders has closed more than 200 stores across the nation. Sears has closed over 100 stores across the nation. Blockbuster is bankrupt, was bought by Dish Network in April 2011 for $320 million (chump change) and is already on its way to closing 200 stores across the nation. Best Buy swallowed a 30% quarterly loss leading up to the holiday season in 2011 and is clearly headed toward its own demise. We’ll see Best Buy stores around KC begin to drop off within the next 12-18 months if they don’t drastically improve their business model. Gap (owner of Old Navy & Banana Republic) has been losing money steadily for years and is closing 200 stores in the US as it transitions into opening stores in China, but supposedly the reason the Lawrence Old Navy is closing is not from a lack of sales but a lease dispute.

    None of these companies’ failings have anything to with Lawrence, Kansas. These companies are losing money because fewer and fewer consumers are getting in their cars and driving to stores to buy goods and services. They’re staying home and using Amazon, Netflix, eBay, New Egg, B&H, ThinkGeek.com and a variety of other online retailers, usually at reduced costs and with guaranteed inventory.

    You breezed across that glaring nationwide epidemic with one quick little mention in your column, yet brand it as “The Somewhat Sorry State of Affairs in Lawrence.”


    Fact: Sears closed stores in Lee’s Summit and St. Louis in 2011 in addition to Lawrence.
    Fact: Borders closed stores in Wichita, Overland Park, Kansas City, Springfield and St. Joseph in addition to Lawrence in 2011.
    Fact: Old Navy closed stores in Overland Park and Independence in 2010, long before the yet-to-be closed Lawrence location.

    Now you’re probably thinking, “Jeez, this guy sure loves Lawrence.” Not true at all. Never lived there. Hardly go there. Definitely don’t need to drive there to go shopping. It’s just that, sometimes you come across a lazy piece of writing like yours here and can’t help but shake your head at all the inaccuracies and half-truths. Sure, you’ll pass it off by claiming you’re not a reporter and you only tell the story from the perspective of your own choosing, and after all it is your website. Nobody can force you to be better at what you do. Only you can do that.

    But sometimes you deserve to be shown how easy it is, with minimal extra effort, to be better.

  7. smartman says:

    But Mearle
    You can still get GREAT deals in Lawrence on Birkenstock sandles, used Volvo’s, weed, mandolin’s, ukelele’s and shakra candles. PLUS, there’s still the North Lawrence Country Club with the stellar lunch buffet Mon-Sat.

  8. Super Dave says:

    Thank You
    Merle you and smartman have said it as it really is. What Hearne was trying to say or going to say with this story is beyond me. Maybe he was writing a feel sorry for John Kiefer story and this is how it came out.

  9. Merle Tagladucci says:

    Thanks smaartman
    I’ll take your word for it

  10. kcfred says:

    Another chance to bag on Mizzou and about the rivalry that KU fans allegedly don’t care about. Oh, and the advertising budget must be coming up soon. They call this an advertorial.

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