Bill Self, between bites of hot wings and a burger with no bun, at lunchtime Friday spoke with media members for close to two hours about his new passion - Bill's Basketball Boogie.
It's his June 7 "party of the summer at Kansas Speedway," where Self, Kansas University's basketball coach, will raise funds to "design and build a campus that will provide kids with a new and safe place to play and learn how to live healthy lives : to participate in organized sports, practice wellness and develop healthy habits."
"Kids don't play outside anymore. You go home, get on the computer, play video games. It's a joke," Self said of habits of some children grades K-12.
"My concern is the less active you are, the poorer you do from an educational standpoint and from a self-esteem standpoint. Statistics show that. Childhood obesity is up. Kids are lazier now. What we want is kids to outlive their parents. This would be a great start."
For starters, Self and his Assists Foundation Board and committee members have approached several architects to aid in conceptualization of a campus that could include places for children to play a variety of sports - he mentioned baseball, basketball, tennis, softball, volleyball, soccer, field hockey and skateboarding as examples.
The foundation is looking to identify a location for the campus in the greater Lawrence/Kansas City area, with the projected cost to be revealed at the Boogie, which has Web site - basketballboogie.org - describing the many activities for the evening.
Once the location and final budget are established, construction of the campus will proceed.
The Assists Foundation will not be building outdoor fields or indoor centers to house sports. The foundation will leave that up to the "powers that be" in any city that wants to join forces. What the foundation will do is fund and support a Wellness Center that will serve as hub of the campus.
"Let's say we (either a school district, park and rec department or private individual) build more baseball fields or softball fields or jogging trails, walking trails, places for skateboarding, volleyball, indoor soccer, whatever : included will be a Wellness Center for screening and testing kids for juvenile diabetes, arthritis, sight, hearing," Self said, indicating he believes his foundation could provide up to $1 million a year to keep the Wellness Center running.
"KU Med or Children's Mercy Hospital could be involved in this hub that would be available to everybody for wellness education. We'd have buses bring kids in from all over the area. It'd be available to all."
Funding for the Wellness Center should be in place through the generosity of those attending the June 7 Boogie.
Self hopes somebody will "step up to the plate and want to do something like this," he said, referring to a city willing to build the campus with recreational facilities for youths.
He said there are creative ways to fund the campus - "naming rights, grant money, private means, whatever.
"The amount of money available to these types of foundations is pretty sizable if we can get anybody to have the same vision," he said, adding, "we are not building facilities. We want to help somebody build facilities. We are not into raising taxes or costing people money. We'd love for a community regardless of where it is to jump on board where they'd say, 'We'd be better off having something like this.'''
Self envisions a campus that could have facilities added on in the next two decades.
"We know it has to be in phases," Self said. "If we wait and start five years from now, 10 years from now, that will not help our youth. Childhood obesity is a national problem. We need to do something about it now."
Self, who would love for additional recreational facilities for youths in Lawrence, said his children have competed in baseball and volleyball in both Kansas City and Topeka because of lack of facilities here.
"When we moved here (five years ago), one thing we were a little disappointed in - to be real candid - was lack of opportunities for youth in Lawrence," Self said. "We have facilities, but not enough to accommodate everybody who wants to do it. We don't have a skating rink, don't have a recreational basketball facility. We do not have indoor soccer, indoor field hockey. We don't have a lot of things that would certainly occupy a youth's time, as opposed to sitting in front of a computer playing 'Guitar Hero' six hour a day."
Self encourages people to check out his Web site, attend the Boogie partly as "a celebration of our championship season" and also to be educated about his foundation's vision.
"I'd love to do it here," Self said of having the campus in Lawrence. "It depends also on the powers that be to see if they are interested in jumping on board. I don't know one parent or person who'd look at this and say, 'That's bad.' The hesitance would be, 'Who's going to pay for it?' What I'm saying, the wellness part, let the foundation take care of it. Let the powers that be, if they want to do it, figure out the rest.
"I don't know why anybody would not want our community to be a more whole place for young families to move to. We're getting ready to have a third high school in five to 10 years. When we build a third high school, what do we do then for facilities? Wouldn't it be nice to have some things already in place for people to utilize?''