A new Overland Park arena has generated plenty of debate, as opponents say the potential USHL home would generate too much traffic and noise, while a proposal to return sales-tax proceeds to the developer is also causing opposition.
The new Overland Park arena is part of a larger 300-acre BluHawk development, which includes the aforementioned health care facility, retail, residential and hotels. And while residents of the Kansas City suburb were initially in favor of the development, those good feelings ended when a new 7,500-seat arena, potentially home to a junior-level USHL team, was added to the mix. The total cost of the project is $649 million, with a $205 million price tag for the arena. The developer, Price Brothers Management, is not seeking direct city or state aid for the development, but is seeking sales tax revenue (STAR) bonds as part of the funding mix. STAR bonds can be used for regional tourist attractions, returning part of the sales tax generated by the attraction to a developer or backing organization. The program is administered by the Kansas Department of Commerce.
The use of STAR bonds has become a flashpoint for opponents of the new Overland Park arena, according to the Kansas City Star:
Neighbors turned out in force for earlier meetings on rezoning and special use permits, objecting to the amount of traffic an arena could generate, among other things. But the council majority voted with the developer.
Now the focus has turned to the STAR bonds, said Fred Wingert, an organizer of Citizens for Smart Growth.
“Where sales tax should be going is to pay for schools, Overland Park streets and services,” he said. With STAR bonds, it would be “going into the back pocket of wealthy developers.”
Traditionally, the use of tools like STAR bonds and tax-increment financing will raise concerns — and, specifically, who is left holding the bag should the development fail.