Wichita developer Johnny Stevens is now officially owner of the beleaguered Kansas Coliseum complex after closing the deal Tuesday that paid Sedgwick County $1.5 million for the property.
That means he has an event in the Kansas Pavilions on his first full day of ownership, because the Wichita RV Show starts its five-day run Wednesday.
“Pretty good timing,” Stevens said.
County commissioners approved a letter of intent to sell to Stevens in October. The sales contract went into effect Nov. 10, the day his agreement with the county was filed with a title company. Tuesday was the closing date.
The complex at I-135 and 85th Street North includes Britt Brown Arena and the pavilions. The county has been subsidizing it for years, including $743,300 in 2011, assistant county manager Ron Holt said.
Stevens already has lined up a tenant for Britt Brown, which closed in early 2010 when Intrust Bank Arena opened in downtown Wichita. National Institute of Aviation Research expects to begin using the facility by the end of the year to do full-scale structural testing for clients.
“We’ve made a deal with NIAR,” said Stevens, an oilman and partner in the Waterfront. “We’re just working on the language of the deal.”
NIAR officials have said they expect to do about $15 million of contract work each year for the next three to four years.
Stevens said he plans to honor the county’s commitment of keeping the pavilions open for at least the next four years as a site to hold a variety of events, such as flea markets and livestock, horse, dog, gun and RV shows.
“We don’t have our hands around how many events we’ll need,” Stevens said, “but we’ll certainly need more events (than the county had), if we’re going to make a little money. We can’t afford to lose as much money as the county has.”
Holt said the change for the complex is the best fit for the community. Half of the 18 full- and part-time county employees who worked at the pavilions have been given other positions with the county so far, he said.