Carrie Rengers

South Wichita lands Camping World, Gander Outdoors

Real estate developer Jeff Lange stands at the lake at the new Steeple Bay development where Camping World and Gander Outdoors are going to open next year.
Real estate developer Jeff Lange stands at the lake at the new Steeple Bay development where Camping World and Gander Outdoors are going to open next year. The Wichita Eagle

UPDATED – In May, Marcus Lemonis told The Wichita Eagle that he was looking for property for his Camping World and Gander Outdoors stores in Wichita and said he particularly liked “the 235 swingaround.”

“We thought, voila!” says Jeff Lange, who is part of a team creating the new Steeple Bay mixed-use development at I-235 and Seneca. “Let’s go make that ours.”

Ten months later, that’s what’s happened.

In April, Wichita-based Triple Crown Realty Trust will begin site work for the stores on 20 acres of the 80-acre Steeple Bay, which is bordered by I-235 to the north, Seneca to the west, MacArthur to the south and Gold Street to the east.

“We’re excited for the project,” Lemonis said via a direct message on Twitter. “We think it’s a great market and feel like being the leader in an area of expansion is better than being a follower.”

Lange, his daughter, Rachel, and Greg Gaeddert and Dan Schulte of B-12 Real Estate Advisors are the Triple Crown managing partners. There are 80 other investors in Triple Crown as well.

Camping World and Gander Outdoors, which tentatively should open in 2019, will be on the eastern side of Steeple Bay.

“We’re going to get one of the first two prototype buildings of both of these stores,” Lange says.

The stores aren’t only a coup for the developers. They’re a major win for all of south Wichita, which generally is not the first place national or local retailers look to open.

“There’s the perception of south Wichita, which is pretty inaccurate in a lot of ways,” says Jeff Lowrance, property development manager for Lange Real Estate. “I think it’s just, you know, anything good happens north of Kellogg – northeast or northwest or downtown.”

Lowrance says Camping World and Gander Outdoors can be catalysts for change in south Wichita.

Kansas state parks use yurts to offer a camping alternative.

“Those are destination-based retail, which is a big buzzword these days. Experience-based, destination-based retail.”

Lemonis is chairman and CEO of Camping World Holdings and purchased the formerly named Gander Mountain out of bankruptcy last year.

Unlike Wichita’s previous Gander Mountain store downtown at WaterWalk, which was criticized for not utilizing the Arkansas River behind it, the new 44,000-square-foot Gander Outdoors and the 33,000-square-foot Camping World will be situated by a lake and use the space between the stores and the lake for product displays.

“Waterfront property … it’s an asset,”Lowrance says.

He says Triple Crown is adding several acres to the lake, which will be about 20 acres when it’s done.

“The water will be accessible,” Lowrance says. “They’re going to be facing it.”

Gander Mountain sells products related to outdoor recreation, such as hunting, fishing and camping, and Camping World sells RVs and camping supplies.

“Obviously, the lake certainly brings significant value,” Lange says. “There’s a certain serenity about that that makes this a very comfortable place to be landing.”

Lange is working with prospective tenants to be on the water and in the rest of the 80-acre lifestyle center, which will have walking paths throughout the property.

“We’re looking for junior anchors to come there as well,” Lowrance says. “Restaurants are a natural fit for the anchors that we have.”

He says there is a “pipeline of deals” in the works. There are 17 available parcels left in Steeple Bay. In addition to other retail and restaurants, Triple Crown is hoping to fill the development with lodging and service providers that area residents need on a daily basis.

Kansas City-based AREA Real Estate Advisorsis handling leasing for Steeple Bay and Triple Crown’s Saddle Creek development at 47th and Broadway, which used to be known as South City Center.

“When leading brands like Gander Outdoors and Camping World commit to a location like this, it’s a great signal to the market,” Matt Vaupell, AREA’s executive vice president and director of brokerage services, said in a statement. “Steeple Bay is getting a lot of attention and we’re looking forward to some other big announcements coming soon.”

Triple Crown had to relocate 90 mobile homes from two parks, Pacesetter and Lakeshore, for Steeple Bay.

“Those folks were on board and very cooperative for us to disrupt their lives and move them to a new location,” Lange says.

Triple Crown also had to buy property from other land owners to make the development happen. Lange says it all went smoothly.

“Those types of things are quite unusual in development, but I think it speaks to the quality of people here. … We just have fantastic folks who can believe in … the vision of transformation.”

He says Lemonis does, too.

“He knows how to make transformation happen,” Lange says. “He’s an exciting and dynamic individual. … He loves what we’re doing here.”

Kansas’ newest reservoir, with campgrounds and trails, is worth the drive. HorseThief Reservoir, owned by four western Kansas counties, is the state's newest public reservoir and is designed for all water sports, camping and hiking.

Carrie Rengers: 316-268-6340, @CarrieRengers

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