A few residents anxious about a 7,500-seat hockey and events arena proposed for the BluHawk development made their case to the Overland Park City Council Monday night.
But the council deferred action until state regulators decide whether the project is eligible for sales tax revenue bonds, known as STAR bonds, to help finance it.
Turnout for the hearing was much lighter than at previous meetings, where people packed into the council chambers and hallway. This time there were about half as many people.
The hearing was continued until Aug. 1.
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The council listened to arguments both for and against the arena, which would be part of a 300-acre development near 159th Street and Antioch Road. An organized group of residents have been against the arena, saying they are concerned about its effects on traffic safety in the neighborhood.
They were countered by neighbors equally opposed to the possible alternative to the arena — a 600-unit apartment complex. The apartments would generate even more traffic, they say.
However, Councilman Dave Janson said he’d received more than 100 e-mails from residents who support the arena.
The city council had planned to discuss possible boundaries for the special tax district that developers say they need to build the next part of BluHawk.
Price Brothers Management, which is developing the project, has proposed the arena and a branch of the Hutchinson-based Cosmosphere space museum to the retail and residential elements of the northern part of the development.
However, council members decided to wait until they hear from the Kansas Department of Commerce on whether the project qualifies for the STAR bonds.
The area in question covers about 117 acres in the northern half of the project.
The arena would be home to a United States Hockey League team and could also host concerts and other events such as high school graduations. The hockey program is a top-level amateur league from which professional players are often drafted. Developers say the arena and space museum will provide a unique element that will draw visitors from miles away.
STAR bonds are a tourism-oriented type of financing in which a portion of the sales tax generated from future business can be used to pay for some of the development costs.
Developers told the council at a previous session that they’d identified about $205 million in costs that could be paid for by the bonds. However the council first must decide on the boundaries of the district. The rezoning and special use permits for the project had already been approved at an earlier council meeting.
Most of the half-dozen speakers at Monday’s meeting questioned whether the arena will bring in as many visitors as developers think. At earlier meetings, developers said their feasibility study showed the attractions should bring in 3.5 million visitors a year, with 1.2 million coming from outside a 100-mile radius.
Betha Regan, of Overland Park, countered that the study was filled with “inflated assumptions.”
Jan Jones, of Overland Park, said tourism spending in Kansas has also been too sluggish to support the growth rates predicted by developers. “I just hope you really get down and peel back this onion and look at the details before you jump into spending our tax money for 20 years,” Jones said.
Peter Runkel, of Lenexa, was the only speaker in favor of the arena. Runkel, a former youth hockey coach, said there is a lot of interest in hockey in the area. “I hope the council will not be short-sighted in the growth of hockey,” he said.