Business

East-side sports facility developer sues partner, city of Wichita

An old artist’s image shows the GoodSports project at K-96 and Greenwich Road. The developer is suing its former partners and the city.
An old artist’s image shows the GoodSports project at K-96 and Greenwich Road. The developer is suing its former partners and the city. Courtesy

GoodSports, enlisted to build a sports facility at K-96 and Greenwich, is suing the project’s master developer and the city of Wichita for being kicked off the project in April 2015.

The 148,500-square-foot Sports Forum, which opened in December 2015, was built later by another group. It is the centerpiece of the still-developing Greenwich Place retail and hotel complex.

GoodSports, based in Sarasota, Fla., is seeking some amount between the $850,000 it spent and the $5 million fee it claims it was cheated out of, according to its attorney, Lynn Preheim.

Named as defendants are: master developer Wichita Destination Developers; the city of Wichita; and the group that ultimately built a facility, WSF Holdings.

Wichita Destination Developers is made up of several prominent developers, led by Rick Worner, and includes several Wichitans, including Christian Ablah and Tom and Mike Boyd.

GoodSports, in the suit, spins a tale of greed, hardball dealing and duplicity.

It maintains that Wichita Destination Developers sought out GoodSports because it needed an experienced sports facility developer on board in order to secure state approval for STAR bonds. STAR bonds, which fund construction, are repaid by the sales tax generated in the district.

The city of Wichita took the 60 acres on Greenwich Road around K-96 for the project. GoodSports was promised 15 of those acres to build a 60,000-square-foot sports facility. The sports facility would be owned 80 percent by GoodSports and 20 percent by Wichita Destination Developers.

But, according to the suit, once Wichita Destination Developers got approval for the STAR bonds, it started pressuring GoodSports to buy out its 20 percent for $5 million — a “fee” prohibited by law.

GoodSports balked, and the master developers started finding fault with its project, according to the suit. The city of Wichita also asked for changes not in the signed development agreement, the suit said.

The city ultimately removed GoodSports from the project. WSF Holdings was named to the project soon afterward.

Few of the defendants would comment on the lawsuit, but GoodSports’ narrative of events runs counter to much of what has been said publicly on the high-profile deal.

City officials and representatives of the master development groups both criticized GoodSports repeatedly for failing to secure adequate financing or complete many of the requirements to finish the building.

Preheim disputed that GoodSports couldn’t secure enough funding.

Tymber Lee, lead partner for WSF Holdings, said it’s too bad this resulted in a lawsuit, but the city wound up with a much better project: Sports Forum is more than twice as big as the original GoodSports project.

“It’s unfortunate because the city of Wichita got an amazing facility,” he said.

Dan Voorhis: 316-268-6577, @danvoorhis

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