Coliseum proposals to be made public today

The public may get its first glimpse of three developers' proposals for managing the Kansas Coliseum as soon as this afternoon.

During a Sedgwick County Commission staff meeting Tuesday, County Manager William Buchanan said he has recommended the proposals be made public.

In recent weeks, county officials have come under criticism from groups that use the Coliseum for events and from The Wichita Eagle, who wanted the proposals made public before the County Commission decided what to do with the aging Coliseum, located north of Wichita.

In late July the county commissioners decided to issue a request for proposals, seeking ideas from developers.

The county contends the proposals fall under the Kansas Open Records Act's exemption for sealed bids. The county is releasing the proposals voluntarily, Buchanan said.

Buchanan said the proposals would be released today in order to give each developer time to tell county officials what they want to be withheld from the public.

"The proposers may have things in their RFP that they consider proprietary and that they don't have to release," he said. "A couple of the proposers have suggested some retail out on the site, but neither have contracts with companies, so to list those stores is wild speculation."

The proposals will be made available to local media and placed on the county's Web site.

The three developers interested in managing the Kansas Coliseum are Hartman Arena, which has proposed holding concerts and sporting events nearby; Heritage Development Group; and North American Management of Kansas LLC.

The future of the Coliseum has been unsettled since voters approved a downtown arena in 2004. Buchanan had initially recommended closing the complex to save money, but groups that use the pavilions rallied to keep them open.

The complex includes Britt Brown Arena, two pavilions, a horse arena, Wiedemann (RV) Park, a go-kart track and several parking lots.

Commissioners discussed the proposals with county staff for nearly an hour Tuesday.

Commissioner Dave Unruh asked what the county's role would be in the process: Should the county maximize revenues? Keep costs as low to the county as possible? Get the greatest citizen usage for the most benefit? Or, wait until economic conditions improve?

Other commissioners said that before they decide how to proceed, they want more information.

Commissioner Tim Norton said he wanted the public to become more engaged in the process.

Commissioner Karl Peterjohn expressed concerns that with poor economic times, the county should not proceed with anything that could be a financial drain to taxpayers.