A Kansas City-based development team will bring a $50 million STAR bond proposal for northeast Wichita before the City Council on Tuesday.
GoodSports, led by hotelier Jerald Good and consultant Rick Worner, the developer of Village West around the Kansas Speedway, is proposing a 53,000-square-foot indoor sports fieldhouse at K-96 and Greenwich Road, part of a broader 347-acre tourism and shopping destination district that includes the Cabela’s store under construction. The district targets the growing $7 billion youth sports industry in America, and has been endorsed by the Greater Wichita Sports Commission and Go Wichita.
The first phase of the project, including the fieldhouse, would be built just north of K-96 east along of Greenwich, with the bulk of the district including Cabela’s, Target and other retailers running along both sides of Greenwich to 21st. The proposed tourism district also includes a undeveloped tract just southeast of the 21st and Greenwich intersection owned by Slawson Cos.
The first step before the city council on Tuesday is a request for a resolution setting a Feb. 14 public hearing on the proposal to create the STAR bond district. Once a project plan is developed, the issue will come before the council again for approval.
The sports facility would target a broad range of events, including national-caliber Amateur Athletic Union basketball tournaments, Good said. In addition, Worner – who includes Nebraska Furniture Mart and Cabela’s among his credits in Village West – aims to target the same type of one-of-a-kind restaurants and retailers that drive traffic to the Kansas City development.
“We want to create a unique one-of-a-kind tourist destination that will draw millions to Wichita,” Worner said. “This is the cheapest form of economic development out there, targeting other people from other states to drive here and spend their money here.”
Worner and Good declined to name any potential tenants, but said the project will target shops and restaurants that cannot be found within a two- or three-hour drive, such as T Rex Cafe, the dinosaur-themed restaurant in Village West. There won’t be any well-known national chains with a local presence, Worner and Good said.
“If you always do what you’ve always done, you always get what you already got,” Worner said.
The fieldhouse would include six indoor basketball courts, small outdoor tennis courts and outdoor athletic fields. Included would be facilities for volleyball, wrestling, archery, cheerleading and fencing, all developed to host national youth athletic competitions.
The center also would serve as a national and regional education and training center for athletes and coaches and be open for local residents and area visitors.
The centerpiece of the funding behind the project is the state’s STAR bond statute, which allows the state’s 6.3 percent sales tax on taxable purchases to be captured for certain development costs. STAR bond funds can be used for “vertical” expenses, including land acquisition, public and private infrastructure. However, STAR bond funds also can be used to build the fieldhouse, one of the exceptions permitted under Kansas statutes that expire in July.
If approved, part of the STAR bond proceeds would be earmarked to complete the expansion of the K-96 and Greenwich interchange, which isn’t fully developed.
GoodSports has already completed a feasibility study that estimates the sports facility would attract 300,000 athletes and spectators annually, including 20 sports tournaments, 10 ongoing leagues, 15 sports camps and 15 sports conferences. At its full 347-acre buildout, the district would draw an estimated 3.3 million visitors per year, with residents within a 100-mile radius making up two-thirds of that number.
The City Council and the Kansas Department of Commerce must first establish a STAR bond district for the intersection, following the public hearing before the City Council. Then, developers must submit a STAR bond project plan demonstrating at least a $50 million capital investment, at least $50 million in gross sales and no significant negative impact on existing businesses in the project marketing area. The council and commerce department must again approve, and both council decisions require a two-thirds vote.