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Gov.: State won't add to KC stadium incentives

KANSAS CITY, Mo. —Kansas Gov. Mark Parkinson said Wednesday that the state doesn't plan to sweeten a $230 million package of incentives to lure a soccer stadium and office complex to Wyandotte County.

During a news conference at the Kansas Statehouse, Parkinson said the proposal offered two weeks ago to medical software maker Cerner Corp. and Kansas City Wizards owner OnGoal LLC was final.

"We hope that the offer can work, but if it cannot work, we will not move forward in adding any additional money to secure this opportunity," Parkinson said. "While good jobs are valuable, they are not valuable at any price."

OnGoal and Cerner are proposing a $414 million development near NASCAR's Kansas Speedway in Kansas City, Kan. The project includes an office complex for 4,500 Cerner employees, an 18,500-seat stadium for the Wizards and two dozen soccer fields for amateur teams.

State officials say the venture could bring 9,000 jobs to Kansas.

The incentives include $85 million from the state in cash incentives, tax credits, training funds and sales tax exemptions. Parkinson on Wednesday said $48 million of that would be paid up front, but he didn't go into further details.

In addition, Wyandotte County would be allowed to use almost $145 million in sales tax revenue collected from the area around Kansas Speedway to back bonds that would finance the new soccer stadium.

Bonds backed by sales tax revenue already have been used to develop retail and entertainment sites in the same area. Those bonds were to be retired in 2020 but will be paid off by 2014, freeing up some $32 million a year in revenues — which otherwise would flow to state government.

Parkinson said neither he nor Commerce Secretary Dave Kerr have heard directly from Cerner or OnGoal since Kerr disclosed the incentives on Oct. 15.

"We have made what we believe is a generous offer," he said. "We have no intention to waste anyone's time or to play any games. We did not make an offer that was a low-ball offer that we would negotiate off of."

Kelli Christman, a spokeswoman for North Kansas City, Mo.-based Cerner, declined to comment on the negotiations or Parkinson's statement. A spokesman for OnGoal didn't immediately return a phone call for comment Wednesday.

Republican lawmakers criticized Parkinson's statements, saying the state must do all it can to attract Cerner's high-paying jobs — the company estimates the average salary will be $65,000 — away from the project's previous location south of Kansas City, Mo.

"A lot of us still question whether the state has been aggressive enough — in this competitive environment — for jobs of this caliber," said House Appropriations Chairman Kevin Yoder, R-Overland Park. "Throwing out a take-it-or-leave-it statement is certainly consistent with what many of us believe to be the lackluster approach the state is taking in this effort."

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