DALLAS — The Wichita, Kan., City Council began the process Tuesday that could result in $50 million of sales tax and revenue bonds for a multi-sport amateur athletic complex in the city.
Councilors unanimously approved a public hearing Feb. 14 on a plan by Focus Enterprises Inc. to create a 347-acre district in northeast Wichita.
Incremental revenues from the state’s 6.3% sales tax on activity within the district, which is currently undeveloped grassland, would support up to $50 million of state-authorized but city-issued STAR bonds.
Allen Bell, Wichita’s director of economic development, said the city would also pledge its share of the incremental revenue from Sedgwick County’s 1% sales tax from the district. The city has no sales tax.
“None of the county’s sale tax would go toward the STAR bonds,” Bell said. “The city would pledge its part of the incremental sales tax revenues collected in the district.”
Kansas law mostly limits the use to STAR bond proceeds to land acquisition and infrastructure, Bell said, but a provision allows proceeds to finance a major multi-sport athletic complex.
The proposal by GoodSports Enterprises includes a 53,000-square-foot field house and outdoor athletic fields capable of hosting large amateur sporting events.
“The major intention is to attract national and regional youth competitions,” Bell told the council. “It will also include at least one and maybe two or three hotels to accommodate the teams and their families.”
The athletic complex would be the centerpiece of a shopping district that would include restaurants and retail, Bell said.
Bond proceeds would also finance completion of a highway interchange, land acquisition and street construction.
The Department of Commerce must certify that GoodSports’ business plan meets the state’s criteria for STAR bonds before the city can establish the parameters of the tax-collection district.
Project sponsors must provide at least $50 million of private financing and $50 million of projected annual revenue. STAR bonds are intended to promote tourism in Kansas, Bell said.
To be eligible, 20% of the visitors must be from outside Kansas and 30% must travel 100 miles. Councilman Michael O’Donnell said the proposal looks viable, but he wants more information before creating the bond district.
“I want to see hard numbers,” he said. “I want to see what sort of commitments they have from the developers that want to bring in hotels and restaurants, and a retail shopping center.”
GoodSports’ preliminary financial impact study estimates the complex would attract 300,000 visitors in the initial phase. The district is expected to bring in one million out-of-state visitors a year, generating demand for 458,000 hotel rooms.