March 15, 2012

Commerce secretary OKs boundaries for GoodSports district

Kansas Commerce Secretary Pat George has approved the boundaries of the GoodSports sales tax and revenue bond district established by the Wichita City Council at K-96 and Greenwich.

Kansas Commerce Secretary Pat George has approved the boundaries of the GoodSports sales tax and revenue bond district established by the Wichita City Council at K-96 and Greenwich.

The approval, confirmed Thursday by George’s office, marks the first state-level step toward the establishment of a 400-acre entertainment and tourist destination.

The proposed GoodSports Fieldhouse project now goes back to developers and the city for a detailed project and financing plan, along with feasibility studies.

Before any sales tax and revenue (STAR) bonds can be issued, a detailed project plan must be developed by the developers and city staff, said Allen Bell, the city’s urban development director. Then, the Metropolitan Area Planning Commission must find that the proposed project plan is consistent with the city’s comprehensive plan and the City Council must hold a public hearing to consider the project plan and then adopt it.

The final step is approval of the project plan by George, who would issue bonds in an amount to be determined by the state to help finance the project.

“The developer is very pleased with the approval,” said Kansas City attorney Korb Maxwell, who represents the developers. “We think this is a good early sign that the state and city are excited about what we can bring to K-96 and Greenwich, and we look forward to working with our partners as we continue on this project.”

Maxwell said a late winter meeting with state officials revealed some support for the project.

“Obviously they want to see more details on the project, but we felt good about the reception we got,” Maxwell said.

City Council member Pete Meitzner, who represents the district, echoed Maxwell’s comments.

“It’s the first big step. It’s great news,” Meitzner said. “The potential for that area is absolutely unlimited.”

The $270 million project’s centerpiece is a 53,000-square-foot indoor sports fieldhouse, part of a tourism and shopping destination district that includes the Cabela’s store that opened Wednesday. Maxwell’s development group has ties to the Village West project around the Kansas Speedway in Johnson County. The key funding mechanism behind the project is the state’s STAR bond law, which allows the state’s 6.3 percent sales tax on purchases to be captured for certain development costs in a district. The funds can be used for “horizontal” expenses, including land acquisition and public and private infrastructure.

The first phase of the GoodSports project, including the fieldhouse, would be built just north of K-96 east of Greenwich, with the bulk of the district including Cabela’s, Target and other retailers running along both sides of Greenwich south to 21st Street. The proposed tourism district also includes an undeveloped tract owned by Slawson Cos. just southeast of the 21st and Greenwich intersection.

The developers say the sports facility would target a broad range of events, including national-caliber Amateur Athletic Union basketball tournaments. It also would target the one-of-a-kind restaurants and retailers that drive traffic to the Kansas City development.

The GoodSports project is the first STAR bond proposal to come before the council since Bowllagio, a bowling-themed multi-use attraction proposed for west Wichita. It died before the council in 2010 amid public protests that it would misuse public tax money and threaten the financial viability of longtime private bowling alleys. The only other city STAR project is the riverfront improvement plan.

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