The Sedgwick County commissioner who brought a group of cowboys to the table to market the Kansas Coliseum now wants to cut ties to them.
Commissioner Kelly Parks, who encouraged his colleagues to give Heritage Development Group permission to market the Coliseum in July, now alleges that Heritage has misrepresented its relationship with the county to others.
"I want to see if we can't sever that relationship as soon as possible," he said Wednesday.
On Thursday, Parks said that he is looking into whether Heritage committed fraud when making its pitch to have the National High School Rodeo Association's 2012 and 2013 Wrangler Junior High Rodeo Finals at the Kansas Coliseum by leading the group to believe the county was building the "Saddle Rock Rodeo Resort" there.
Heritage's Saddle Rock plan was one of three the county considered for the Coliseum. The county has not accepted any of them.
Greg Lippincott, president and CEO of Heritage, said there was no fraud.
Heritage did present the rodeo group the Saddle Rock plan, but Lippincott said "they were quite aware that it was a speculative plan."
Assistant County Manager Ron Holt said the county has asked the association for Heritage's proposal because "we haven't seen it."
Holt said the county has some concerns that Heritage "may have indicated there are going to be facilities out there to host that event that are not going to be there."
Rodeo association executive director Kent Sturman confirmed Thursday that the county asked for a copy of the proposed facility drawings and construction plan.
Developer originally backed by Parks
The county's relationship with Heritage began in July, when Parks asked his colleagues to let the group promote the Coliseum, even though that proposal wasn't on the commission's agenda.
The rodeo association reached a tentative agreement with Heritage to have the rodeo finals at the Coliseum in 2012 and 2013. No contract has been signed.
Parks appears on a video that Heritage presented to the rodeo group.
In it, he tells the group that commissioners voted unanimously to let Heritage "seek events and report back to us on a monthly basis on the possibility of having more horse events and more events at the Britt Brown and Kansas Coliseum complex."
He also says in the video that the county had sent out a request for proposals.
"We think that we're going to have some very positive proposals come back in and working with Heritage Development, be able to have the many horse events in there including your 2012 and 2013 event."
Arena sticking point
When the county asked developers for proposals for the Coliseum, Heritage submitted plans for a rodeo resort. The county's staff recommended a proposal by North American Management-Kansas instead, but commissioners didn't pursue either.
Parks said his relationship with Lippincott soured because Heritage initially said it would keep Britt Brown Arena open but then later proposed not using the facility, which does not comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
In July, Lippincott told commissioners at a meeting that "we see some great possibilities with Britt Brown Arena and the expo buildings that's all connected up there once that facility is vacated."
But after architects reviewed the arena, Heritage decided it was not cost-efficient to keep the building open, Lippincott said.
Future remains shaky
The future of the Coliseum is unclear. Britt Brown Arena is scheduled to close in February after Intrust Bank Arena opens downtown. The Coliseum complex' pavilions will remain open next year.
Whether the rodeo finals will take place at the Coliseum also is unclear.
Sturman declined to talk Thursday about the group's plans. He said no one from the county had told him that Heritage's proposal was off the table.
Holt said the rodeo association, based in Denver, would require a formal agreement from the county by February.
With plans for the Coliseum at a standstill, Holt said he doesn't think the chances are great the county will be ready to commit to anything by February.
"The closer we get to February, the less chance there is that they're going to come here," Holt said.