Carrie Rengers

Popular Kansas lake to once again offer boat slips

Cheney Reservoir has been without boat slips for a couple of years, but that’s about to change.

Marina operator Kevin O’Brien plans “as many as I can fill the harbor and as many as there is need.”

In December, O’Brien and his wife, Stephanie, signed a 15-year concessionaire lease with the state for O’Brien’s Marina.

There was another marina that previously closed when the state didn’t renew the contract and made the operator pull out everything, including the slips.

“All the old ones were taken out of the water,” Kevin O’Brien says. “There hasn’t been anyplace for anybody to store a boat out here the last two years.”

The state then approached the O’Briens, who owned five Kaps convenience stores throughout central Kansas, including one in Cheney where they live.

“They contacted us and wanted to see if we wanted to run it that first year,” Kevin O’Brien says.

They reopened for half a season with a temporary lease for a store at the former marina.

“I think it was kind of a test on both parties,” O’Brien says.

“We put a temporary Band-Aid on everything for the state,” he says. “The store runs pretty much like a convenience store.”

In addition to food and drinks, it also sells fishing, camping and boating supplies. O’Brien says he and his wife found good vendors.

“It was a nice fit with our stores at that point.”

In November, they sold their Kaps stores.

“We had a very interested buyer,” O’Brien says.

Now, he says that “this will be what we’re going to do.”

“We’ve got a couple summers of experience under our belt, and now we’re ready to launch the full marina.”

In 2017, the state rebuilt the marina store.

“They took it down to the metal frame,” O’Brien says.

In late July, the state put in a fuel dock, though the ability to pump fuel isn’t scheduled to start until this spring.

“That’s why we’re excited about this year,” O’Brien says.

With a fuel dock, he says there’s not as much fueling and spillage in the water.

“If you have them fueling at the docks, you’ve got a lot more control.”

O’Brien calls the state’s work on the fuel dock “pretty incredible.”

“I can dock at least seven to 10 boats around the thing and two jet skis if I want,” he says. “It’s probably overkill.”

In March, the O’Briens plan the first phase of new boat dock installation with an initial 86 slips ranging from 10-by-24 feet to 15-by-36 feet and costing between $2,800 and $3,800 for leases that run from May 1, 2018, to April 30, 2019.

There will be some dry storage areas as well.

Normally, the marina season runs from April 1 to Sept. 30, but O’Brien says he’ll open the store in March as workers install the new slips.

There’s a chance the O’Briens eventually could open the store year-round.

“We’ll just have to wait and see how busy we get this year,” Stephanie O’Brien says.

Oklahoma-based Marine Development Inc. will build the docks, which are 20 percent leased without any advertising.

The O’Briens have a list of more than 100 people who have expressed interest in renting a dock and have been contacting each one.

Now, Kevin O’Brien says, “It’s time to open it up to the rest of the world.”

The covered docks will be made of concrete, aluminum and composite wood and have a concrete brick pattern on their walkways, which O’Brien says “gives the dock a lot more stability.”

“And with the wind we get out here, stability’s a good thing.”

There will be motion-detector surveillance cameras as well.

O’Brien says the second phase of slip installation will depend on how quickly the first phase fills up and what size slips are most in demand.

“Everything out here’s going to be all nice and new,” he says. “It’s going to be a change for this lake.”

Carrie Rengers: 316-268-6340, @CarrieRengers