WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – The Wichita City Council unanimously passed an ordinance on Tuesday to expand the K-96 and Greenwich Sales Tax Revenue (STAR) Bond District boundaries to include the addition of an outdoor multi-sport athletic facility.
In 2015, the city opened Wichita Sports Forum, an indoor, multi-sport athletic facility, as part of the STAR Bond District. Its success has created and demonstrated the demand for additional multi-sport facilities in the region, according to city officials.
“I would say almost every weekend we have had something going on here,” said part owner of Wichita Sports Forum Tymber Lee. “You come in on a Monday through a Thursday and it’s several thousand athletes that are an evolving door of just practice time, parents dropping them off. It’s turned into a culture in itself.”
Lee said Wichita Sports Forum is on track to have more than one million visitors in its first year of business.
“Every single retailer and restaurant called us and said immediately the day you guys opened, our business went up,” Lee said.
“I think I heard a number the other day that just the sports forum alone is adding something like 30,000 room nights a year,” said City of Wichita Mayor Jeff Longwell during Tuesday’s city council meeting.
However, there is room for improvement when it comes to Wichita sports facilities. Lee said big baseball, softball and soccer leagues often look over Wichita because of a lack of outdoor facilities.
“Right now, unfortunately Wichita is a drive through city. They (athletes) drive through to Kansas City and they drive though to Oklahoma City and Tulsa,” Lee said. “We are missing those big tournaments that we could get.”
City officials agree with Lee. During the city council meeting, Mark Elder, with Wichita Urban Development, said the addition of a new outdoor sports complex is an economic opportunity for the city.
“Just being able to have that size of fields for tournaments does create a regional and national draw. This does increase for the hotel and retail spending in the area and in the city and it just helps market Wichita as an indoor, outdoor sports destination,” said Elder.
The proposed outdoor facility would include making improvements to the Stryker Soccer Complex and the adjacent and previously designed Northeast Sports Complex. The city plans to put in turf baseball, softball and soccer fields in place of the current high maintenance and grass fields.
The city said the K-96 STAR Bond project has been successful in generating sales tax revenue to repay the outstanding bonds ahead of schedule. Officials said the additional revenue created by the existing and future retailers will generate enough sales tax to finance the improvements necessary to improve the current fields, and the addition of a the outdoor facility.
The Kansas Secretary of Commerce still has to approve the expansion of the K-96 STAR Bond District. The city said it hopes to hear from the state by the end of the year.