Caban development to include 100,000-square-foot aquarium building

A 100,000-square-foot building holding a 300,000-gallon aquarium and five, 60,000-gallon ones is the latest piece of the proposed Caban Marketplace development in Bel Aire.

Tom Blitz of Shopping Center Development & Consulting, said at a news conference Wednesday afternoon at Shelden Architecture that the $50 million project – called The Kansas Aquarium – is a key component to the destination development at 53rd and Rock, just north of Wichita.

The Kansas Aquarium will be a private-public project, Blitz said. It also will feature multiple meeting and banquet areas, a restaurant and a gift shop, he said. The aquarium is in addition to a 220,000-square-foot sports training academy and a destination water park resort announced earlier this year by Blitz.

Blitz would not say when construction on Caban would begin, though the three projects and the retail space are planned as part of the development’s first phase.

He said the proposed project is dependent on approval for STAR — sales tax and revenue — bond financing, which is repaid using the state sales tax collected from businesses on site. STAR bonds are intended for destination projects that pull in at least 30 percent of visitors from beyond a 100-mile radius.

Blitz said he and the other, unnamed developers of the project — “I can’t divulge those,” he said — are proceeding with plans as if they are going to get STAR bond approval. He said if STAR bonds aren’t approved, they will have to re-evaluate the project. He said the developer of the proposed water park at Caban is “fully funded” and ready to begin construction once STAR bonds are approved.

“As soon as the STAR bonds are passed, we’re going to start,” Blitz said.

The proposed development also includes 300,000-square-foot of retail space.

Blitz said once complete, Caban is expected to attract more than 5 million visitors annually. “That is a very conservative number,” he said.

He also said it wouldn’t conflict with another proposed STAR bond project, the $429 million GoodSports destination sports and entertainment complex at K-96 and Greenwich. That project received Wichita City Council approval in January as a STAR bond project and awaits final approval from the Kansas Department of Commerce.

“Ours is more training oriented,” Blitz said of the athletic component of the Caban project. “It’s not the same group of athletes.”

After unveiling of the Kansas Aquarium Wednesday, Sedgwick County Commissioner Dave Unruh said the proposed project “obviously represents a huge investment in Sedgwick County” and it would be an attraction that is “unique and unduplicated.”

Bel Aire city manager Ty Lasher said city officials there are excited about the project and that the city is working through the STAR bond process with Blitz and the developers.

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