WICHITA, Kan. — The number of sports complexes across the state of Kansas is on the rise, at a time when state and local leaders are working to grow and effectively develop the widespread area.
With recent layoffs in an industry that has largely defined the Wichita community, the tough question remains: “How can we grow and become a competitive market?”
Since January 2013, 11 athletic complexes have opened, renovated, or expanded facilities in the Wichita area. Plans remain in the works to open even more.
The GoodSports complex is expected to open its doors February 2015 at K96 and Greenwich Road in East Wichita. It is arguably the largest project of its kind in the area.
However, not everyone agrees with the city’s efforts to bring it to Wichita, specifically their use of STAR bonds.
“These programs, like a STAR bond or a tax incremental financing district were designed to encourage developers to develop in low-income neighborhoods where you may need to give some incentive in order to get that kind of development done,” said Mike Shatz, the editor of ‘Kansas Exposed.’
A STAR bond is a tax incentive that takes state sales tax revenues and reinvests them back into the development project.
To read more about the Wichita-Sedgwick County Planning:
Community Investments Plan
The argument regarding the opening of so many complexes continues. Residents ask, ‘Is this counterproductive?’ Can all of these sports complexes be successful, thereby growing the local economy?
Jeremy Hill, the director of the Center for Economic Development and Business Research at Wichita State University’s W. Frank Barton School of Business, sat down with KSN to discuss the topic in depth. Hill said that you must evaluate each complex separately to determine their individual purposes and target consumer.
“Talk about a baseball field, we have other baseball fields. Or, in some ways, we have other water-related activities,” said Hill. “We have YMCA that has pools and things like that that are used for competition, right?”
Wichita is not alone.
Goddard cleared the latest project hurdle Wednesday when the Kansas State Commerce Secretary approved a STAR bond application for a similar project known as the Goddard Aquatic Complex. The complex project shares the same developers as the K96/Greenwich GoodSports Village project in East Wichita.
Kansans have mixed emotions.
“Having something that would bring income into the town of Goddard would be super, but I don’t know if Goddard is ready for more restaurants and hotels,” said Mike Shaughnessy, a Goddard resident.
The Goddard City Administrator, Brian Silcott, responded to concerns about multiple complexes with similar consumers: “We’re diversifying from that… but still creating that active lifestyle that we seek in the Wichita Metro Area.”
The larger GoodSports complex however, may be destined to set itself apart from the other complexes.
The site is located about 22 miles northeast of the Olympic Park Project District. It occupies a 347 acre site at the intersection of K96 and Greenwich.
The project has been designated for a mixed-use development which will be comprised of an 60,000 square foot indoor athletic fieldhouse complex, along with a 115 room hotel. This is merely the first phase of what developers expect to be a “destination attraction,” especially for athletes. The hotel is also expected to contain meeting rooms, a fitness center, as well as restaurant and retail spaces.
For more information about GoodSports:
Both the Goddard and Wichita facilities hope to attract athletic tournaments/competitions to the area.
Although the developers of some complexes are technically Kansas-based, in the form of Limited Liability Corporations, KSN learned the GoodSports complex has ties nearly 1,500 miles away in Sarasota, Florida, where the larger company, GoodSports Enterprises Global has its headquarters.
“In some ways, this wouldn’t be completely local if they had an LLC, even though it’s being filed by someone here locally,” said Hill. “They’re paying a huge fee out for services to a corporation to make it work… There would be some loss of value to this company.”
The CEO of GoodSports, Jerald Good, has 40 years of experience in the hotel industry. ‘Focus Hospitality’ has built, owned, or managed more than 50 properties. Of those, more than 30 were sold, at least partially.
This has area residents concerned that the GoodSports village destined for Wichita will be built, fearing then, the developers will bail.
KSN learned that’s not necessarily a bad thing. In fact, Hill said it can be healthy.
“They had enough proof that it had value. It had enough revenue, and another investor said, ‘this is a good idea, I would want to take it over,'” said Hill.
KSN spoke with the Vice President of Marketing for GoodSports Enterprises Global in Florida to learn more about the company’s intentions with the Wichita Project.
“We look at this not only as building it, but a successful many years of operations and really changing the way the hotel and sports industry look at this market,” said David Lindberg.
There is a debate concerning whether Wichita, and the surrounding area, is the right market for sports complexes like these.
“I don’t necessarily believe that Wichita could be a high attraction, location for various sports-related stuff,” said Hill. “We’re just not necessarily already known as that, so it’s hard to make that image for people willing and wanting to do this.”
Another concern regarding these complexes is jobs; primarily the creation of low-wage jobs.
“We’re looking at up to 400 jobs for construction and an additional indirect job count of over 500,” said Brian Silcott, the Goddard City Administrator.
“We have more than enough minimum wage jobs in this town. 34 And what we need are manufacturing jobs,” said Shatz.
Regardless, enthusiasts were easy to find.
“We look forward to the additional retail and restaurant opportunities that it’ll bring, not just to Goddard, but to West Wichita and to West Sedgwick County,” said Silcott.
Wichita City Council approves STAR bond for GoodSports complex (K96 & Greenwich)
Mayor Brewer’s State of the City Address
Goddard City Council passes aquatic complex; cleared for next phase