Carrie Rengers

Rodney Steven II announces Goddard aquatic plans; familiar name joins the project

This rendering shows preliminary plans for the $50 million, 82,000-square-foot Goddard aquatic complex. Rodney Steven II plans to break ground Monday. The development should open by late 2019.
This rendering shows preliminary plans for the $50 million, 82,000-square-foot Goddard aquatic complex. Rodney Steven II plans to break ground Monday. The development should open by late 2019. Courtesy illustration

Some people doubted the Goddard aquatic complex would ever happen, given its numerous setbacks with various developers along the way, but Rodney Steven II is breaking ground on Monday.

“This is the first of its kind for Wichita,” the Genesis Health Clubs owner says.

Steven says Goddard is “kind of like Wichita now.”

“It’s pretty exciting if you drive out there right now. It’s not that far anymore.”

The $50 million complex includes a competitive natatorium; an indoor water park; a 123-room, four-story hotel; baseball fields and possibly soccer fields as well; and a Genesis Health Club in 82,000 square feet.

Part of the $50 million includes $23 million in sales tax and revenue bonds, which will pay for the natatorium, baseball fields and part of the development’s infrastructure, such as roads.

Steven closed on his purchase of about 90 acres in the 19800 block of West Kellogg on Friday.

He says his plan is different from previous ones like “night and day.”

“The water park was never in their plan. It was just the competitive swimming.”

Steven’s own plans even surprised him.

“I didn’t think we were going to be doing a hotel,” he says. “I’ve been really good sticking to my core of what I do.”

The STAR bonds dictated the hotel.

“I’m excited about it now,” Steven says. “I wouldn’t do it without the hotel now.”

He says it’s necessary “with all the attraction we’re going to be bringing to Goddard.”

The project’s one-time developer, Great Wolf Lodge co-founder Bruce Neviaser, is back to help with the hotel and park along with his former Great Wolf partner Craig Stark. The two are now with Dallas-based Imagine Resorts and Hotels.

“It’s not my area of expertise, and I wanted to team up with someone who was great at it,” Steven says.

“It’s a very similar setup . . . to what they’ve done at Great Wolf Lodge.”

Steven hasn’t selected a hotel flag yet, but he says he’s in talks for one.

Hotels are something Steven may add to his future repertoire.

“Obviously, I want to get my first one under my belt.”

Steven says the natatorium is the heart of the development.

“Without it, it wouldn’t exist.”

It will have a 25-meter competitive pool with 10 lanes plus a 25-yard, four-lane warm-up pool and a large hot tub along with what Steven calls some “awesome viewing” from above along with 600 pool-side spectator seats.

A glass wall will connect the competition pools to the water park.

“I want it to be visible,” Steven says. “You can see what’s going on on the other side and vice versa.”

He envisions families bringing children for swimming competitions while their siblings can play at the water park.

The park will include 10 water features, such as a lazy river, slides, hot tubs and a large interactive play area.

Steven says the park won’t be only for kids, just like Great Wolf Lodge.

“I’ve had a good time in there.”

He expects it to be popular in cold weather.

Steven says summer will be a big season as well for the five baseball fields — with room for double that — and summer camp programs, which Steven first created two years ago.

“It’s really growing for us,” he says. “This place is going to be the coolest thing in the summer.”

At one point, plans called for the development’s components to be in freestanding buildings, but now they’ll all be in one. Steven says it makes sense so people can walk easily from one to the other.

There also will be a pre-school and a Genesis Health Club that will have a cardio deck that looks over the aquatic center.

Steven already has about 150 pools at his 46 clubs in five states.

“We’re pool people,” he says. “This will be a no-brainer for us there.”

He says the Goddard development is hardly the largest deal he’s ever done.

For instance, as he’s been on a health club buying spree in recent years, Steven acquired 23 new clubs in one day two years ago. That included 2,000 new employees and a million square feet of new club space.

“That was kind of crazy,” he says.

“This is easy. At least I’m not traveling. This is home.”

The city of Goddard estimates that the complex will bring more than 400 new jobs and have an annual economic impact of more than $236.5 million.

There will be a 2 p.m. groundbreaking at the site on Monday.

“This complex is going to be so great for Goddard,” Steven says.

He says he expects the development, which will have a new name soon, to be a regional draw when it’s complete in late 2019.

“They have everything now,” Steven says.

“Goddard’s going to be a pretty popular destination.”

Reach Carrie Rengers at 316-268-6340 or crengers@wichitaeagle.com.
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