Sedgwick County commissioners don’t seem much closer to making a decision about the future of the former Kansas Coliseum complex, in limbo since Britt Brown Arena closed last year.
Commissioners volleyed a few ideas back and forth Tuesday but didn’t come to any conclusions.
Options include issuing a new request for proposals to developers, hiring a commercial broker to sell off all or parts of the property or auctioning off the complex.
County Manager William Buchanan said the ideal would be to find a developer who would want to operate the Kansas Pavilions, which remain open, “to get us out of that business.”Buchanan said there are a few “tire kickers” who have expressed interest in the complex.
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Britt Brown Arena has been closed since last year. The county has made a commitment to keep the pavilions — popular for equestrian events, dog shows and swap meets — open through 2016.But the county operates the pavilions at a loss. The budgeted subsidy for the complex next year is $584,000.
In 2009, the county asked developers for their ideas for the complex. Three groups submitted ideas, all of which the county rejected. One idea was a rodeo complex.
Commissioner Dave Unruh said he would like to see the complex turned into an industrial park to lure manufacturing businesses to the county.
“Dedicating that ground as a shovel-ready industrial site is a good option for us,” Unruh said. “To do that, we probably need to raze the Coliseum building itself and make other provisions for the pavilion activities.
“I continue to hear that we need a big industrial site. Some of the other regional counties seem to have assets to attract prospects. We need to be able to compete in that area.”Unruh said he’d be willing to have the county work with a broker.
“I don’t think it does anybody any good for us to just sit on it and do nothing,” he said of the complex.
Commissioner Richard Ranzau, whose district includes the complex, said he would like to see the pavilions remain open, especially if there is a way to make them more profitable.
“If we can find someone to do it privately and keep them open, I’m not opposed to that,” Ranzau said.
A broker would “give us the widest range of options,” he added.
Commissioner Jim Skelton said the county should pursue talks with people who have expressed interest in the property and “vet it out in a public manner to ensure fairness.”If that’s not fruitful, he said, a broker would be an option.
Commissioner Tim Norton said he would be OK with either issuing a new request for proposals or hiring a broker.
“I think I could go either way,” he said, “but we’ve got to make that decision at some point.”
Reach Deb Gruver at 316-268-6400 or firstname.lastname@example.org.