Politics & Government

Wichita sports complex closes for 2018. Here’s what to expect when it reopens

The main stadium at the Stryker sports complex will be upgraded with an artificial-turf field, more seating for spectators, berms for picnic-style seating and more restrooms.
The main stadium at the Stryker sports complex will be upgraded with an artificial-turf field, more seating for spectators, berms for picnic-style seating and more restrooms. The Wichita Eagle

The Stryker soccer complex near K-96 and Greenwich in northeast Wichita has been closed by the Wichita Parks and Recreation Department. And it’s about two weeks away from the start of a major reconstruction project.

Here’s what’s going on and what to expect when it’s finished:

1. Why is the city rebuilding Stryker?

The main goal is to create a more attractive and efficient facility that will bring more youth soccer tournaments to Wichita. Also, to create better spaces for locals to play soccer and other field sports including football, rugby and lacrosse.

2. Who will pay for it?

The total project budget stands now at $22 million. It will be funded using STAR bonds, which divert future sales taxes from in and around the complex to pay back the money the city borrows to build it.

3. What’s the payback for Wichita?

Sports tournaments are coveted by cities because they bring in tourists who stay in local hotels, eat at local restaurants and pay local taxes while they’re here.

Once the new Stryker complex is up and running, it is expected to draw 100,000 to 150,000 visitors a year and generate $16 million to $24 million in economic impact, according to a study by the Wichita State University Center for Economic Development and Business Research.

The facility should account for about $1.4 million to $2.1 million a year in sales and hotel taxes for the city, the study said.

4. Why does the city think people will choose Wichita for soccer tournaments?

When the Stryker complex is finished, there will be nothing like it in the state, according to the WSU study. There are three sports complexes in Johnson County and one in Lawrence, but none has the flexibility and amenities the Stryker complex will have, the study said.

The closest comparable facility is in Muskogee, Okla., 226 miles away, the study said.

Wichita also has the advantage of being in a central location, within driving distance for teams from the Kansas City metropolitan area, Oklahoma and even parts of Texas and Colorado, said Park and Recreation Director Troy Houtman.

5. How many fields are there now and how many will there be after the rebuild?

There now are 13 grass soccer fields at the site, including a championship field with bleacher seating for spectators.

When the project is complete, there will be 10 outdoor fields and an indoor facility with one field. The main stadium will remain where it is and get turf and seating upgrades.

All the new fields will be artificial turf. The city just bought $8 million worth of plastic grass.

6. Why are they reducing the number of fields if they want to host bigger tournaments?

While that may seem counterintuitive, the new fields will be far more efficient and able to handle a lot more soccer games than the old ones, Houtman said.

Part of that is the artificial turf will hold up much better to constant play and have less downtime in wet weather. Also, many and maybe all of the fields will have lights, so play can continue after dark.

The city expects to be able to schedule about 80 to 90 games a day at the new Stryker, compared with the 40 or so that could be held there now, Houtman said.

7. What’s the indoor facility going to look like?

That’s still an open question. City officials have seen some preliminary design concepts but haven’t chosen a plan yet. What is known is that it will include locker rooms for players to prepare for games and additional restrooms for guests.

8. I want to go watch my kid play. What are they doing for spectators?

Several things: First, the city will expand the seating around the championship stadium. There will be more fixed seating on the south sideline and the rest of the field will be surrounded with berms for picnic-style seating, Houtman said.

The changes should increase seating capacity from the current 800 to 900 to 2,500, he said.

The surrounding regular fields will be farther apart from each other than now, creating more space for spectators and pregame warm-ups.

The fields will be arranged in pods of two to four, each of which will have its own parking lot, so spectators won’t have to walk very far from their cars to the fields. The city will add a second street access to the complex, to minimize traffic jams as teams and their families arrive and leave.

9. What about sports other than soccer?

The fields will be marked for soccer, but there will be additional small markings on the fields to act as guides for converting to other sports. Workers will be able to use those guides to paint in lines for whatever sport they want. The paint they’ll use can quickly be washed off with water and brushes when the game is over, Houtman said.

10. When does construction start?

Grading for the outdoor fields is expected to start by early next month, weather permitting. The City Council authorized the final $13.7 million of the budget two weeks ago. Construction of the indoor facility is scheduled to begin in April or May.

11. How long will Stryker be out of service?

The city closed Stryker last month and isn’t scheduling any events there this year, Houtman said. Outdoor fields could be ready for play on a limited basis by July or August. The indoor facility isn’t expected to be finished until late this year.

12. Who’s going to run this thing when they’re done building it?

That’s to be determined. The city could opt to keep running Stryker itself, or make a deal with a private business to manage the operation for profit. Houtman said negotiations are under way with some potential private operators, but the city hasn’t yet decided which way to go. The city will retain ownership and oversight authority over Stryker, whether it’s publicly or privately managed, he said.