Work should begin late this summer on the GoodSports entertainment and sports complex at K-96 and Greenwich, developers and city officials say, with opening sometime next summer.
By Bill Wilson
The Wichita Eagle
The last obstacle for the $122 million sales tax and revenue bond project should be cleared Aug. 6. The Wichita City Council is expected to approve a special sales tax to patch together financing for improvements to the Greenwich interchange on K-96, the key turn-off serving the GoodSports complex along with stores such as Cabela’s, Target and other shops.
Once that last funding source is established, Vice Mayor Pete Meitzner – whose District 2 is home to the facility – said city crews are ready to begin work on streets, utilities and the interchange.
“I’m ready to see dirt turn out there,” Meitzner said. “I never lost hope, but some of the obstacles we were working through gave me some pause. Things are starting to break up there.”
The first phase will be anchored by GoodSports Fieldhouse, a 65,000-square-foot multisport athletic facility targeting regional and national tournaments. Developers say it will include 12 full-size basketball courts or 24 volleyball courts and can house team sports competitions for basketball, volleyball, indoor soccer, wrestling and cheerleading. The field house is projected to draw 300,000 visitors a year.
Adjacent to the field house will be a 150-room hotel targeting young athletes and their families. Its target market is the stream of summer basketball tournaments sponsored by groups like Mid-America Youth Basketball and the Amateur Athletic Union, events that draw players, coaches, parents and families from across the region.
Korb Maxwell, a Kansas City attorney representing the developers, said the field house and adjacent hotel will go up first. The field house should take nine months to build, making the summer sports tournament season – critical since many high schoolers are unable to play during the school year while they’re on school teams – touch and go in the first year.
The GoodSports group, a sports-themed development company based in Florida, continues to negotiate with potential retail tenants. But Maxwell said no announcements are imminent.
“There have been major retailers circling this deal for going on two years,” he said. “Every time I think we’re a month or two away from some major announcements and moving forward, something gets in the way.”
The GoodSports group is continuing talks with a “major big box tenant” to fill 72,000 square feet, along with “a number of other destination retailers,” Maxwell said.
Kansas Department of Commerce officials approved almost $32 million in STAR bonds for the project last month. The remainder – about $90 million – is developer equity. STAR bonds, or sales tax and revenue bonds, use sales tax revenue generated by a development to pay off bonds that finance major commercial entertainment and tourism areas.
The project’s first phase includes the $9.5 million completion of the K-96 interchange. The original plans earmarked $7.5 million of the STAR bond revenue and $2 million from the city’s 10-year capital improvements program. That deal had to be reworked after the state approved only $3.8 million for the interchange.
The new financing plan includes the state STAR bond money, $2.5 million from the city’s capital improvements fund, $2.2 million from the special sales tax generated by a community improvement district to be considered next month and $1 million from a similar district already established for Cabela’s.
Through August and September, many of the final elements of the GoodSports deal will come before the Wichita City Council, including a special assessment petition that will initially fund the $2.2 million CID contribution before it is bonded, the issuance of project bonds and the final approval of a development agreement.
A veteran Wichita commercial real estate broker whose son plays summer basketball said the GoodSports facility is “truly economic development in Wichita.”
“It’s only going to help, and the reason is you’ll have people from out of town spending money that they wouldn’t have spent here, because they had no other reason to be here,” said Patrick Ahern, a broker at NAI Martens in Wichita who isn’t marketing any of the K-96 and Greenwich property.
“These are people who are going to play a couple of games, then go out for lunch and go shopping. It’s all revenue that the city and people near the sports venue otherwise wouldn’t get.”
GoodSports will generate “new money” for Wichita, he said.
“The most positive thing in economic development is someone coming to Wichita from outside the community and spending money,” he said. “If people from our area spend money up there, it’s a wash. They’d spend it elsewhere.”
Such tournaments often are multiday affairs, Ahern said, raising the possibility of a boon for northeast Wichita hotels, restaurants and attractions.
“If people come in from Kansas City, western Kansas, Columbia, Mo., they’re going to need a hotel room,” Ahern said. “It won’t just be lunch, dinner and some shopping. If they’re from a smaller town, they’ll go to Cabela’s and Target to shop, the Warren to see a movie, things they can’t do at home.”