Bowllagio's goal: Entertainment mecca

A Wichita developer is putting the finishing touches on a west side mixed use commercial development that would generate $3 million in annual property tax out of unusable farmland.

Developer Jay Maxwell and his partners, known as Maize 54 LLC, are completing plans for a 33-acre development at Maize Road and Kellogg, anchored by a 91,000-square-foot entertainment center featuring a bowling training complex.

Dubbed Bowllagio, the entertainment facility will include a 34-lane bowling center, 12 private boutique bowling lanes and a variety of entertainment rooms.

It will be a Midwest training hub for the bowling industry as it expands into broader entertainment themes, and become a "destination entertainment complex," one that developers are seeking $13 million in Sales Tax And Revenue bonds to finance.

The STAR bond proposal, which does not include any local tax incentives, goes before the Wichita City Council on June 8 for initial review before going to the Kansas Department of Commerce for action.

South-central Kansas, including Wichita, receives only 13 percent of the state's economic development assistance while making up about 27 percent of the state's population, according to a recent study commissioned by three Wichita economic development groups.

Vice Mayor Jeff Longwell praised the project, saying it will create almost $3 million in annual property tax revenue from distressed farmland currently generating about $30,000 annually.

Maxwell's development concept, which has not been formally named, is something he hopes to take on the road in partnership with Brunswick, a national entertainment and bowling provider.

"I wanted to do this in our backyard first, although I'm talking to Brunswick and Trifecta and some other people about doing it across the country," he said. "They have markets they've identified that they want to go in."

The Wichita training facility would join similar complexes in Arlington, Texas; Reno, Nev.; and Sebring, Fla.

Bill Kratzenberg, an Atlanta-based independent analyst specializing in bowling feasibility studies, said Maxwell's concept is one of three active in the bowling industry.

"There are three different definitions of new bowling construction right now: the traditional center, a hybrid that combines traditional and boutique lanes like they're planning and the boutique atmosphere that's smaller with a heavier emphasis on food."

Rather than competing with existing bowling alleys, Longwell said the Maxwell facility "is a traffic generator... one that should do nothing but generate more bowling interest in west Wichita that benefits everyone with a facility."

Other pieces of the development, to be announced later, include a major hotel and at least one name-brand restaurant, Maxwell said.

In addition to professional training, the bowling component will include tournaments, coaching and a bowling history museum.

It will include VIP stadium-style skyboxes overlooking the main bowling floor for college and pro tournaments, bowling camps and large events.

The building also will include a 4,500-square-foot game room, casual and upscale dining, seasonal attractions, a three-story laser tag arena, a mirror maze, a new gaming concept called Laser Vault and a centrally located room with seats and big screens for video gamers.

The development's business model is built around corporate business and tourism, Maxwell said.

"These facilities that have been up for a year, a year and a half, have as many as five full-time people selling corporate visits," he said.

"You've got 20 people, 40 people in for a meeting and they're interested in taking a break, doing the technology we'll have, doing the bowling stuff. It's a great tool for the corporation."

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