Prairiefire plans to add ice rink, joining others announced for Overland Park

Big JOCO projects to watch

Big new developments are on the drawing boards for Johnson County in 2018. Here are key projects to follow. Brookridge rendering from Curtin Property Co. Mission Trails rendering from Klover Architects.
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Big new developments are on the drawing boards for Johnson County in 2018. Here are key projects to follow. Brookridge rendering from Curtin Property Co. Mission Trails rendering from Klover Architects.

As two supersized multisport arena proposals compete in south Johnson County, Overland Park’s Prairiefire is ready to build a small “community” outdoor ice rink at a fraction of the cost.

Merrill Companies LLC announced Tuesday that it has selected KCIce to manage and operate the rink.

Arbor Plaza ice rink was part of the original proposal for Prairiefire in 2006. Merrill puts the construction costs at about $1 million and said it will mostly come from private funds, although the Prairefire development is in a Community Improvement District, or CID, which adds a sales tax to benefit the center’s development.

The 100-by-120-foot rink — similar in size to the Crown Center Ice Terrace (at 105-by-105) — will be on the north border of 135th Street between Nall and Lamar avenues. It will host hockey and curling activities. Figure skating and ice dancing lessons will be offered in the winter. The rink also will offer public open-skate options.

KCIce will convert the rink for sports and outdoor programming during the summer months — perhaps volleyball, soccer, concerts, and a playground for children. The developer anticipates an October 2020 opening.

Ken Morrow, president of KCIce, said his company has been trying to grow ice sports, not just hockey, and the Kansas City market is “very underserved.”

“This is going to be outdoors so it has a magic all its own,” said Morrow, a four-time consecutive Stanley Cup Champion with the New York Islanders and a 1980 Olympic gold medalist. “Something community-oriented, something for families and kids, parents and grandparents can come out to. Fire pits, they can sit around watching the kids having fun. It’s all about getting people outdoors and getting them active.”

Prairiefire, on 58 acres in south Overland Park, includes 209,000 square feet of retail, restaurant and entertainment tenants, including Cinetopia, HomeGoods, Pinstripes Bistro Bowling Bocce and REI. It is now 97 percent leased. Arbor Plaza will be the heart of the development.

“We wanted to have summer and winter programming, and obviously winter programming has to do with ice in some way,” said Fred Merrill, president of Merrill. “Summer activities, winter activities. It fits into the entire mixed-used type of program.”

The final phase also includes a hotel and more office, service and retail tenants, including an Andy’s Frozen Custard.

Final phase of construction was set to start July 1, 2018, but it was pushed back to July 1, 2019. The new plan will go before the Overland Park Planning Commission in March, Merrill said.

“There just seems to be a growing demand for kids that want to play hockey and ice skate,” he said. “With the kind of winters we have, we need activities in the wintertime. If we don’t have that, everyone stays in their homes for four months out of the year and it hurts business in general.”

Leawood’s Park Place also has an ice rink.

The Prairiefire announcement comes as several other Johnson County developments have announced plans for indoor hockey and sports arenas. Those would be more expensive and expansive facilities.

Price Brothers envisions a 3,500-seat arena plus multisport complex that would include hockey and numerous other sports at its Bluhawk development southwest of U.S. Highway 69 and 159th Street. Like Prairiefire, Bluhawk is in Overland Park.

The Bluhawk Sports Park would feature an ice rink, curling lanes, plus courts for basketball and volleyball and space for numerous athletic tournaments. It is seeking Kansas STAR Bonds to help finance the project. STAR Bonds are 20-year bonds that are repaid with local and state tax money generated by the projects. They provide up-front dollars for tourism-related developments intended to draw customers from up to 100 miles away.

Another 3,700-seat indoor hockey and sports arena is proposed for Mentum, a mixed-use redevelopment project that would fill the former site of the Great Mall of the Great Plains, at Interstate 35 and 151st Street in Olathe. The Utah-based Woodbury Corp. is also seeking STAR bonds to make its Mentum arena and entertainment complex a reality.

The Kansas Department of Commerce is considering whether to award STAR bonds to those proposed projects. A decision is expected in several months.

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Joyce Smith has covered restaurant and retail news for The Star since 1989 under the brand Cityscape. She appreciates news tips.