Politics & Government

Bar K, a dog-friendly bar, highlights post-golf proposals for Wichita’s Clapp course

Bar K: ‘It’s the happiest place on earth’

Bar K off-leash dog-park is set to open Aug. 14 at the Berkley Riverfront Park. It will have a jungle gym, splash pool and more for dogs, and coffeehouse, bar, cafe, lawn games and more for humans.
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Bar K off-leash dog-park is set to open Aug. 14 at the Berkley Riverfront Park. It will have a jungle gym, splash pool and more for dogs, and coffeehouse, bar, cafe, lawn games and more for humans.

The fairways and greens of Clapp Golf Course could give way to a dog-friendly bar/restaurant and boat rental ponds, according to plans presented to the Wichita City Council on Tuesday.

The hope is those kinds of private-sector money-making ventures could fund conversion of the public golf course to a more traditional park, with a playground, picnic shelters and walking and biking trails.

Depending on which plan the City Council eventually picks, amenities at the park could include a skypark/rope course, an outdoor event amphitheater, pickleball courts, sand volleyball and/or a sledding hill.

At a workshop meeting Tuesday, the council received three conceptual plans for Clapp, which has been living on borrowed time since the Park Board voted to shut it down due to declining rounds and revenues.

The course, at the southwest corner of Harry and Oliver, is staying open for golf until the city adopts a plan to replace it sometime in the coming weeks.

Each of the plans for redeveloping the course features a dog-friendly bar and grill as a proposed anchor tenant.

“What that is is a ‘Bar K,’ they’re opening a second one in Kansas City,” said P.J. Novick, a consultant with the Confluence

group in Kansas City.

“It’s actually a facility for $10 you bring your dog in, for another $5 you bring your two dogs in,” he explained. “You let them go within this enclosed compound where they have folks helping monitor your dogs. And you can pick up a Coke, you can get a sandwich, you can even get a beer and just socialize with other people (while) the dogs are down there.”

He said Bar K’s been phenomenally successful.

“Two weekends ago they had Goldendoodle day and they had 185 dogs in the picture, it was just crazy,” he said. “The amount of money that can come in is really impressive and it’s really really popular.”

Confluence has helped convert two former public golf courses, in Olathe and Overland Park, to other uses.

Much of the Clapp golf course is in a flood plain and a creek runs through it, limiting the potential for development of business ventures or recreational amenities.

All three plans for the park to replace the golf course include a network of ponds.

As much as 40 percent of the park could be converted to man-made ponds that would serve a dual purpose of flood control for south Wichita and offer recreational opportunities for boating and fishing, officials said.

Dirt excavated to create the ponds could be used to create a grassy mound for winter sledding, said Parks Director Troy Houtman.

Houtman said Snow Bros Snowmakers, a Wichita company that provided artificial snow for a December sledding day at the Mid-America All Indian Center, has expressed an interest in managing an artificial snow hill for the city during the winter months.

Plans were developed by an 11-member group appointed by Councilman James Clendenin to come up with a use for the park land once it stops being a golf course.

Mayor Jeff Longwell said he’s disappointed that there is no golf activity proposed in any of the plans for redeveloping Clapp, which has been a golf course for more than 50 years.

After the Park Board voted to close the course, the mayor and the golfing community had assumed there would still be some kind of golf connection there, possibly a course of short par-three holes, a practice range or even a miniature golf putting course.

“Is there obviously no desire by the 11-member committee or anyone else to put a golf element in there?” Longwell asked.

Replied Houtman: “I think they see this property has a lot more potential in other areas. . . . To have all the other activities in there that they want, golf was not a priority to the committee.”

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Senior Journalist Dion Lefler has been providing award-winning coverage of local government, politics and business in Wichita for 20 years. Dion hails from Los Angeles, where he worked for the LA Daily News, the Pasadena Star-News and other papers. He’s a father of twins, director of lay servant ministries in the United Methodist Church and plays second base for the Old Cowtown vintage baseball team.