December 11, 2012

Wichita City Council sets January hearing for GoodSports sports complex

A proposed $429 million destination youth sports complex at K-96 and Greenwich Road took another step forward Tuesday when the Wichita City Council set a Jan. 15 public hearing on plans for the project.

A proposed $429 million destination youth sports complex at K-96 and Greenwich Road took another step forward Tuesday when the Wichita City Council set a Jan. 15 public hearing on plans for the project.

Developers say the GoodSports STAR bond project will bring 1.9 million visitors annually to Wichita, including 500,000 from out of state. The estimated sales impact of the first phase of the GoodSports project is $83.6 million in its first year.

Korb Maxwell, a Kansas City attorney representing the developers, said the council’s action clears the way for further discussions with the Kansas Department of Commerce “about what they want to see as we proceed, and how they will calculate the sales tax base from which these revenues will be calculated.”

“It’s a great first step,” Maxwell said. “We’re excited to come before the council for the public hearing. We’ll begin working with the city now to go before the state and start getting their guidance, start setting the formula on which the revenue will be calculated.”

The centerpiece of the funding behind the project is the state’s STAR bond law, which allows the state’s 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.

Maxwell said the $130 million first phase will likely use about $30 million in STAR bond funding for infrastructure, site acquisition and preparation. The remaining $100 million is private debt and equity, he said.

Tuesday’s discussion was the first public look at the project plan, which promises to generate 1,300 new jobs in the first phase, according to an independent analyst, Canyon Research Southwest.

The council can vote Jan. 15 on the project following the public hearing, said Allen Bell, the city’s urban development director. However, the project requires two-thirds approval of the council since it seeks the state sales tax and revenue bonds.

If the council approves in January, the project will go to the commerce department for final approval.

Council member Pete Meitzner, who represents the district in which the GoodSports project is located, praised it.

“This project has had a lot of excitement around it,” Meitzner said, “and I appreciate the depth of the project plan given us so far. The documentation and the independent analysis is very helpful.

“The thought of 1.9 million visitors annually, 500,000 from out of state, just adds to the excitement.”

GoodSports is planning a 423-acre sports, retail, entertainment, medical and office development in northeast Wichita. The centerpiece is a 65,000-square-foot athletic field house that developers believe will draw young athletes and their families to Wichita for a variety of tournaments and training opportunities.

Its target market is the stream of summer basketball tournaments sponsored by groups like Mid-America Youth Basketball and the Amateur Athletic Union, events that draw players, coaches, parents and families from across the region.

“Think about it,” Meitzner said. “You’ve got a roster of 10 kids. With parents, you’ve got 30. With siblings, maybe 50. The numbers are there for some good business.”

That’s just one element of a larger development plan, including national and regional retailers — with one national retailer announcement scheduled soon — office space and medical office space. Included will be at least 300 privately financed hotel rooms, Maxwell said Tuesday. Any new hotels will not receive STAR bond financing.

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. It has been revived without the STAR bond funding request and goes before the Sedgwick County Commission today.

The only other city STAR project is the riverfront improvement plan.

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