The first step toward getting local and state sales tax incentives for the Bowllaggio bowling and retail center in west Wichita is on hold.
Wichita City Council members this morning tabled their vote on whether to give initial support for STAR bonds for the proposed bowling and entertainment complex at Maize and Kellogg.
Council members now plan to review the project in a workshop in November before deciding whether to give their approval to send the project to Topeka for state analysis.
The move comes after confusion over whether the "Gordon Vadakin School of Bowling" is actually part of Jay Maxwell's plan. Maxwell, an established Wichita developer, stressed to The Eagle last week that it's only an idea and that he still needs to negotiate Vadakin's involvement.
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Vadakin has coached the Wichita State University bowling team to 14 national championships and would bring significant name recognition to the project.
But Allen Bell, director of urban development, said that Vadakin asked the city to withdraw his name from publicity after it emerged in a story in Saturday's Wichita Eagle. Bell said developers still plan on a world-class bowling training center of some kind.
"There's some issues, mayor, with the center itself, who's going to operate, who's going to partner with this, what they're asking STAR bonds to be a part of, what that's going to look like," Council member Jeff Longwell said today. "That's all changed in the last day or two since the story broke in The Eagle."
Council member Paul Gray said he needs more information and will closely scrutinize the project since the last STAR bonds project — the WaterWalk — hasn't been "exactly successful." Council member Sue Schlapp said she also needs more information.
Maxwell is seeking STAR bonds, which are rarely used sales tax incentives. Such incentives require the city's initial approval before the state would analyze the project to see if it would be a major tourism draw that involves $50 million in development and would generate at least $50 million in sales.
Vadakin, seems to be one of the keys to the proposed center becoming a regional attraction. But it's unclear whether he has informally agreed to the idea or even thought deeply about it. He couldn't be reached for comment Friday or Monday evenings.
Tim Austin, a professional engineer with Poe & Associates and a representative in the project, said he felt it's appropriate that the council deferred their vote because it's a large project and everyone should be fully informed.
"It's very preliminary at this point," he said.
He said Vadakin was contacted by developers but that no agreement has been finalized.
"The reality is the facility itself is going to qualify," he said. "It's not dependent on Vadakin's involvement in it.
"Certainly he's a renowned figure in the bowing world," Austin said. "But he's not the only renowned figure."
Bell said Maxwell's group — Maize 54 LLC — included the Vadakin center in its business plan. It didn't specify that the information should be private, so it was included on the city's public agenda reports and posted online. It's unlikely such information could be withheld anyway since developers have to show council members how their projects would qualify for STAR bonds. "It's frankly one of the things that makes it a tourism destination," Bell said Monday.
Bell said rigorous vetting of the project plan doesn't begin until the city approves a resolution of support and sets a public hearing. Then the city and state begin a thorough review of the project to see if it qualifies for tax breaks.