Politics & Government

Wichita to spend $700,000 on parking lot at soccer complex, other improvements

Wichita will spend $700,000 of tax money to expand the parking lot and provide other improvements at the city-owned, privately run Stryker Soccer Complex, the City Council decided Tuesday.

The council took that action after a report from the city engineer who said parking lots at the complex are overwhelmed, especially on some Friday nights when the stadium field is used for Kapaun Mt. Carmel Catholic High School football and there are soccer activities on other fields.

Overall, Stryker has 11 artificial turf fields, including the stadium and an indoor facility for year-round play. Those improvements were recently built with $22 million in STAR bonds, which borrow money against future sales taxes to be paid by the customers of the facility.

The additional $700,000 would be from general obligation bonds, to be paid back with general tax dollars.

The operator of the Stryker complex, Wichita Sports Forum, leases the facility for $130,000 to $140,000 a year and keeps any profit it generates.

Council member Becky Tuttle said she visited the site during the spring and summer rains this year.

“This parking lot was a muddy mess. There was no way that it could be utilized,” she said. “It wouldn’t even be safe for folks.

“And so we need to make sure with this world-class facility that we have all the amenities that people need. We want our guests to come back and so we really need to make sure we have adequate parking.”

She made the motion to release the money for the additional improvements and it passed 6-1 with Brandon Johnson dissenting.

City Engineer Gary Janzen said it’s not clear how much of the $700,000, which the council put in its capital improvement budget for Stryker in August, will be needed for the 197-stall parking lot.

After the cost of the paved parking is set by competitive bidding, the remaining funds could be spent on several other improvements at the complex, including:

Additional netting. There is some netting now to protect patrons in the stadium and to protect lights and other equipment in the indoor facility. But it may need to be redone to accommodate use of those fields for baseball and softball, Janzen said. “Right now, it’s not done quite right to protect the facilities,” he said.

A larger press box at the stadium. “Including high school football on a regular basis and other types of events, a larger press box would make some events work a lot better,” Janzen said.

Pedestrian access enhancements between the soccer facility and Greenwich Road, including signs and additional sidewalks.

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.