Carrie Rengers

STAR bonds could be used for another K-96 and Greenwich project

City Council member Pete Meitzner, left, Kevin Mullen, who is one of the people who donated land for the Stryker Soccer Complex, and Wichita Sports Forum partner Tymber Lee, right, hope to make substantial upgrades to the complex. They may seek STAR bonds to help with the project.
City Council member Pete Meitzner, left, Kevin Mullen, who is one of the people who donated land for the Stryker Soccer Complex, and Wichita Sports Forum partner Tymber Lee, right, hope to make substantial upgrades to the complex. They may seek STAR bonds to help with the project. The Wichita Eagle

The booming area around K-96 and Greenwich may get another major development, possibly through the assistance of as much as $20 million in STAR bonds.

The city and partners in the Wichita Sports Forum are discussing substantial upgrades and additions to the more than 60-acre Stryker Soccer Complex north of the northeast corner of the intersection.

“It’s preliminary,” says Scott Rigby, assistant city manager. “We’re just trying to get our arms around what could be possible.”

Discussions first started in the weeks leading up to the Sports Forum’s December opening.

“They’ve been wildly successful,” Rigby says.

He says there are regular regional tournaments, and the facility is “booked constantly” Thursday through Sunday.

The Sports Forum is focused on indoor sports, though, such as basketball, volleyball and a trampoline park. Its partners want an outdoor component as well – currently they have room for only the facility and parking within the Greenwich Place development – and the city would like to make better use of the Stryker complex.

“We have an underused great asset with the Stryker complex,” Wichita City Council member Pete Meitzner says.

“We’re looking at all the options to make the Stryker complex another added destination benefit that will complement that whole section.”

The city owns the complex under an agreement with businessmen Barry Downing and Kevin Mullen, who donated the land for it.

Meitzner says Downing and Mullen are fine with proposed changes to the complex.

“They believe that the facility is underutilized today.”

Options include creating new fields for lacrosse, football, rugby, softball and baseball along with multipurpose fields for community events such as concerts and festivals.

The goal would be to have the complex available year-round, so it would need some type of artificial grass.

Currently there are nine soccer fields.

“We’ve got to find what is that sweet spot for the number of fields?” Rigby says.

Upgrades likely would include expanded bleachers, bathrooms and the addition of concessions and a possible playground for children whose siblings are playing games.

Sports Forum management would manage the new complex instead of the city.

“They would like to help manage it, and they do a great job of managing sports events,” Meitzner says.

“We do a good job of managing five golf courses,” he says of the city. “The city government is not real active in organizing and managing year-round … sports events.”

Sales tax and revenue bonds – which divert future sales tax from a project to pay the debt to build it – were used for other improvements at K-96 and Greenwich, but the Stryker complex isn’t in a STAR bond district. The state would have to approve the use of the bonds.

“It’s got a lot of pieces that would have to come together if we chose to do the STAR bond path,” Meitzner says.

The project could require anywhere from $10 million to about $20 million in STAR bonds depending on what upgrades are included.

The initial cost is only one factor. There are ongoing costs for maintenance and operations as well.

Meitzner and Rigby say there could be big returns, though.

“So the larger benefit in this could be a draw over the long term,” Rigby says of attracting more people to Wichita.

He says that could be people visiting from the region or people choosing to move to Wichita because of what it offers.

“How do we make Wichita attractive to new business and attract people to the area?” Rigby says.

He says an improved outdoor youth sports complex could be one way.

“This is (an) attraction effort to expand on that exploding … area of town,” Meitzner says.

That part of the city also has a climbing wall, shooting and archery ranges, a bike path and Cabela’s to lure visitors.

“That whole development there has developed into a center for quality-of-life choices,” Meitzner says. “The awareness of trying to do something sooner rather than later has been elevated … by the rapid expansion of quality of life related to … outdoor life choices.”

Though Meitzner wants to move quickly, Rigby says realistically nothing will happen until at least the next quarter because he says he doesn’t want to put forth a concept that’s not fully vetted.

“We’re still internally scrubbing the numbers.”

Rigby says he’d like to see something happen, though.

“We want to use the facility to its greatest potential possible.”

Carrie Rengers: 316-268-6340, @CarrieRengers

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