Similar projects that include a new arena are being floated in Overland Park and Olathe, and officials in both Kansas cities are looking to advance their respective plans.
In Olathe, the Utah-based Woodbury Corp. is proposing a redevelopment of the Great Mall of the Great Plains site that would be anchored by a new arena designed for hockey and other events. The arena would be surrounded by a slate of sports-related amenities, as well as entertainment and retail space.
A project pitched about 10 miles away in Overland Park, led by Kansas City-based Price Brothers and Colorado-based RoughRiders Sports Club, has similar specifications. It calls for a 3,500-seat arena that could host a wide range of events, including amateur hockey, plus a 300,000-square-foot indoor sports complex for tournaments. That would factor into the existing Bluhawk development, which is partially built out and already features amenities such as housing and retail.
Developers for both projects are seeking the backing of STAR bonds, with $63 million sought in Overland Park and the Olathe plan calling for $69.5 million. Given their close proximity and similar concepts, it remains to be seen how the Overland Park and Olathe arena proposals will be evaluated by state officials. The Overland Park City Council voted Monday to move forward with the STAR bond request, following a similar action taken in Olathe last month. Overland Park officials believe that existing development gives the proposal there an advantage, but the state has not made a commitment to either project at this point. More from the Kansas City Star:
Todd LaSala, an attorney who advises Overland Park on economic development projects, agreed Overland Park’s project could have the edge in the Commerce Department’s consideration.
“It is a significant advantage,” LaSala told the council, referring to the fact that the project is already generating sales tax revenue. “It’s very difficult to compete with existing retail.”
STAR bonds (Kansas sales tax revenue bonds) are 20-year bonds that are repaid with local and state sales tax money generated by the projects. These bonds provide upfront dollars for tourism-related developments intended to draw customers not just from the local area but from at least 100 miles away.
The cities are not on the hook for the bond repayments, and any shortfall in projected revenues is borne by the developers and their investors.
Commerce Department officials recently told The Star that both the Olathe and Overland Park projects are eligible for consideration, but both also require more rigorous review for their financial feasibility before any STAR bond approval. The officials said it’s possible both projects could be approved, only one, or neither.
Further approvals would be needed at the local and state levels for either project to move forward. STAR bonds have played a key part in the financing of other sports facility-related projects in Kansas, including in Wichita, where officials are planning a new Minor League Baseball ballpark for the relocating New Orleans Baby Cakes (Class AAA; Pacific Coast League) that will open in 2020 and be surrounded by mixed-use development.
Renderings courtesy HOK.