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Derby dinosaur project now in state’s hands

Field Station: Dinosaurs introduction

A company called Field Station: Dinosaurs – branded as having the world’s largest moving dinosaur models – wants to replicate its East Coast dinosaur park on the north side of Derby, Kansas. Here, the company introduces you to its existing park.
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A company called Field Station: Dinosaurs – branded as having the world’s largest moving dinosaur models – wants to replicate its East Coast dinosaur park on the north side of Derby, Kansas. Here, the company introduces you to its existing park.

Plans for a dinosaur adventure park in Derby are off to the state for final approval after the Derby City Council backed the idea Tuesday.

The dinosaur adventure park is the staple of a larger development project near the intersection of Rock Road and Patriot Avenue in Derby that includes a life-size animatronic dinosaur park, a hospital, hotel, restaurants and retail shops.

The Derby City Council passed an ordinance 7-1 Tuesday for a $24 million Sales Tax Revenue Bond, called a STAR Bond for short, to aid that area of development near Rock Road and Patriot Avenue.

STAR Bonds serve as financial incentives for private sector businesses to create a destination that attracts out-of-state visitors and to encourages in-state visitors to stay in the area for an extra day or two.

Three community members spoke in opposition of the bond.

Prior to the vote, Vaughn Nun, Derby City Councilor, echoed those concerns.

“I think the people that are skeptical should be represented in the vote,” he said prior to the vote. “It’s not really my vote, but it’s for the people.”

Nonetheless, the vote pushed forward.

“A community has to grow, or it’s going to stagnate and die,” said Cheryl Bannon, Derby City Councilor.

A community has to grow, or it’s going to stagnate and die.

Cheryl Bannon, Derby City Councilor

She went on to point out financial safeguards in the ordinance that protect the city if the businesses were to fail.

“Is Derby on a fast track? Yeah. So I consider that a good thing? I actually do,” Bannon said.

“The growth on Rock Road is pretty much guaranteed, but we can control it a little better (with the bond).”

A company called Field Station: Dinosaurs – branded as having the world’s largest moving dinosaur models – wants to replicate its East Coast dinosaur park on the north side of Derby, Kansas. Here, the company introduces you to its existing park.

In total, the project is estimated to cost $159 million – including the bond and private investments. Rock Regional Hospital accounts for $40 million of that total, and Field Station: Dinosaurs accounts for $39 million.

Field Station: Dinosaurs is a New Jersey adventure park branded as having the world’s largest moving dinosaur models. The park would be replicated in Derby, but with some additions.

The Derby park plans include life-size animatronic dinosaurs, a three-dimensional theater, dig site, zip line, ropes course, miniature golf, an interactive paleontology lab and overnight sites for “glamping” – short for glamorous camping.

Rick Worner, managing director of National Realty Advisors in Overland Park, has been the main visionary behind the Derby STAR bond district. He previously worked to develop Wichita’s K-96 STAR bond project, which improved the K-96 interchange with Greenwich Place, where Wichita Sports Forum now sits.

Worner said the addition of Rock Regional Hospital to the project came from a lunch meeting with Mike Belew, executive vice president of CBC Real Estate Group based in Kansas City.

The 65,000-square-foot hospital will feature 12 inpatient beds, 12 surgical beds, six intensive-care unit beds, three operating rooms, two procedure rooms, three catheterization lab rooms and three emergency rooms.

An adjacent 40,000-square-foot building will house medical offices, according to the real estate company.

CBC Real Estate Group says the hospital will be designed as a community hospital with a surgical emphasis. And Belew, from the real estate group, has said he would have move forward with his plans for the hospital regardless of the bond’s outcome – at another location, if needed.

Worner, of National Realty Advisors in Overland Park, says he couldn’t reveal hotel, restaurant and day care names at this point because the deals won’t be finalized until after approval of the bond.

“I want to under promise and over deliver,” Worner said.

But he said the restaurants he’s talked to are all sit-down style dining with wait services, rather than fast food or fast casual.

And he said a Kansas City-area day care company that does not have locations in the Wichita area had expressed interest in the Derby project.

The STAR Bond ordinance passed by the Derby City Council instructs the developer, thus Worner, to consult with the city manager before deciding on retailers, restaurants or other businesses to inhabit the lots north of Patriot Avenue.

The city can then veto any businesses that duplicate retailers or restaurants already located in Derby or that want to relocate from within the city.

Gabriella Dunn: 316-268-6400, @gabriella_dunn

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