Hyatt may be up for sale soon

Wichita Hyatt Regency Hotel (KSN photo)

WICHITA, Kansas – The Hyatt on the river is an iconic part of the Wichita downtown. It may be for sale.

The mayor dropped the idea at his weekly media briefing.

KSN is asking, why sell? The mayor answered with a question.

“Is it time for the private sector to assume ownership of that hotel?” asked Mayor Jeff Longwell. “What I’m suggesting is that we take our time to have both a cost-benefit analysis and a robust discussion involving the public.”

The mayor wants to take a slow, measured approach. He says we first need to find out what it’s worth.

KSN checked and the city paid $22.5 million in 2001, but, the city continues to get strong revenue from the building.

At least one group is speaking out on the potential sale.

“I think there’s always been a concern by citizens about the city being in the hotel business. The city doesn’t need to be in the hotel business,” says Jennifer Baysinger with Coalition for a Better Wichita. “I hope they take their time and truly get fair market price and use that money to fund core services.”

Ken Evans, a city communications analyst, emailed KSN the following information on what the Hyatt brings the city:

The hotel generates a number of different revenues, of which the City and other jurisdictions have a share (guest tax, sales tax, property tax). Part of the current operating agreement requires rent and profit-sharing be used for renovations into the property. Here are some of those estimated amounts, since 2001:

  • + $5M in Guest Taxes
  • + $8M in Property taxes
  • + $12M in Sales Taxes
  • + $600-thousand in Rent payments for meeting rooms
  • + $650-thousand in Profit-sharing payments

Evans also pointed out it is unknown what the selling price would be.

But, does the city need the money from a sale? The city does currently have a financial surplus.

We asked council members why consider selling, if the Hyatt is making a profit each year.

“The taxpayers do not support the Hyatt,” says council member James Clendenin. “There is a profit there.”

Clendenin echoed what the mayor said about a sudden inflow of cash, if the Hyatt were to be sold.

“We are always looking for out of the box ways to improve our community. And if we can do this in a responsible way then I think it will end up happening,” said Clendenin. “What we are hearing from the community and we hear it over and over again is our neighborhood streets are a huge issue.”

Clendenin says there are no plans for where the millions in sale proceeds would go, but he says it likely would go to the general fund.

The mayor said this is not a “fire sale” and he wants careful consideration before anything would be up for a vote with the council.

Look for updates here, and follow @craigandresksn for more updates. Craig’s story will be on KSN this evening and will have updates as well.

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