Hearing today on Cabela's fee

The public will get a chance today to weigh in on a proposed east-side community improvement district, or CID, for Cabela's.

In exchange for the CID, the outdoors retailer thinks it can draw between 800,000 and a million visitors to Wichita annually.

The Wichita City Council will hold a public hearing during its 9 a.m. meeting to examine a proposed 1.2 percent extra charge that Cabela's would tack on to all sales at the store it is proposing near K-96 and Greenwich.

The Nebraska-based retailer is planning an 80,000-square-foot store in the Regency Lakes Shopping Center by the spring of 2012. The proposed CID would raise $17.2 million over 22 years to offset infrastructure, construction, site improvements, parking and landscaping in the $28 million project.

One percent would be directed toward the store project; the other 0.2 percent toward improvements at the K-96 and Greenwich interchange to funnel the expected influx of visitors to the store. The cost of those interchange improvements isn't specified in city documents.

City officials are recommending approval of a development agreement and the CID, citing the store's potential to create tourism and jobs, along with a substantial increase in commercial sales.

Based on their Wichita market studies, Cabela's spokeswoman Kristin Lauver said the company expects up to 1 million visitors annually.

Cabela's expects 35 percent of its Wichita store sales to come from shoppers living more than 90 minutes from Wichita, Lauver said.

For context, a 2003 Kansas Department of Commerce release rated Cabela's 180,000-square-foot Kansas City store the state's top tourist attraction in 2002, with 2.4 million visitors in five months.

John Rolfe, president of Go Wichita, and Wichita Mayor Carl Brewer said the store's unique combination of retail and museum-like displays make it "another destination attraction" for Wichita.

"They create an entire experience that your outdoor and nature enthusiasts enjoy,'' Rolfe said. "Just the experience of going to a Cabela's, whether you're an outdoor enthusiast or a nature-based person, is an experience within itself."

Brewer agreed.

"As you look around the country, every place Cabela's goes people travel to them, if not to shop then to just walk around and look," the mayor said.

Brewer said he would be excited if the Wichita store attracts a quarter of the traffic the Kansas City store did in 2002-03, which would mean a million visitors.

"I'd have to label the store a huge success," he said.

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