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Public can comment online about Coliseum proposals

Saddle Rock Rodeo Resort is one plan for the Kansas Coliseum.   courtesy art
Saddle Rock Rodeo Resort is one plan for the Kansas Coliseum. courtesy art

The public this week will get its first chance to learn more — and comment — about proposals to develop the Kansas Coliseum.

On Tuesday, the three groups hoping to transform the aging complex will make their pitches to Sedgwick County commissioners, hoping to convince each board member that their plan is the best one.

Hartman Arena wants to keep the Coliseum complex — popular for its livestock events, horse shows and flea markets — largely the same.

Heritage Development Group wants to turn the 200-acre site into the Saddle Rock Rodeo Resort.

North American Management-Kansas sees the Coliseum as an entertainment and retail venue, hoping to bring in three hotels and 250,000 square feet of stores and restaurants.

The public may listen to Hartman, Heritage and North American's presentations but won't be able to comment or ask questions.

Instead, the county has set up an online public forum that will be accessible after the final presentation.

Commissioners will not vote on a proposal Tuesday. The county has not yet scheduled a date for a vote.

"I want to give the public plenty of time and input on this," said Commissioner Kelly Parks.

Asked what he'll be looking for Tuesday, Parks said: "Something different than what we've seen before. Something that really jumps out at us."

The future of the Coliseum, off of I-135 near 85th Street North, has been uncertain since voters approved a sales tax for Intrust Bank Arena, which opens next year.

The complex includes Britt Brown Arena, where events such as concerts, tractor pulls and hockey games have taken place, and pavilions where livestock and horse shows are held. The Coliseum site also includes an RV park.

Parks and Commissioner Gwen Welshimer sat in on the review committee that has met privately with each development group. Both commissioners have said they are leaning toward the North American proposal because they believe it is the most ambitious.

At Tuesday's meetings, each developer will make formal presentations and take questions from commissioners.

Parks said he is looking for "a little bit more information on the financial stability of the companies and where they want to get their money."

Commissioner Karl Peterjohn said he was "very concerned about plans that are going to require special financing such as STAR bonds."

Two of the groups — Heritage and North American — have proposed using STAR, or sales tax and revenue, bonds to help finance their plans. STAR bonds help develop major commercial projects by channeling state sales tax revenue from businesses in the district toward public improvements.

Peterjohn said he is looking for a plan that best strengthens the county's use of the complex's pavilions and best grows the county's tax base.

Hartman Arena will make the first presentation Tuesday, from 9 to 10:30 a.m. North American will make its pitch from 10:30 a.m. to noon. Heritage will meet with commissioners starting at 2:30 p.m.

The presentations will be in the commission's chambers on the third floor of the courthouse, 525 N. Main.

Videos of the presentations will accompany the online hearing for people not able to attend the meeting.

To access the public hearing, go to www.sedgwickcounty.org.

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