May 4, 2010
By Kim Hynes (WICHITA, Kan.)
After two public hearings and hours of discussion, the developers of Bowllagio withdrew their proposal. The decision was made late Tuesday.
Representative Tim Austin says they still want to move forward with the bowling and entertainment district, but there are too many unanswered questions. He says there are a lot of unclear components of star bonds and more information is needed before continuing. The decision was made after many city council members showed concern and confusion over the process.
Bowllagio wants $13 million in Star bonds, which are state economic development incentives. In order for the state to consider the project, the Wichita City Council must vote to move it to the state.
Tuesday city staff recommended the council approve a first reading of an ordinance approving the boundaries of Bowllagio. Between the first reading and second reading, the developers would do a market study on what kind of impact Bowllagio would have on existing businesses. Owners of area bowling alley's, restaurants and other entertainment venues told the council Tuesday Bowllagio would have a negative impact on their businesses. They told the council that it's not fair for their tax dollars to be used to help a similar business.
Council member Sue Schlapp says the first reading gives indication that the council supports the project. She says she can't support a first reading without the information on competition. She wants the information first, but a representative for the project says they want some level of support before spending money on a market study.
Council member Paul Gray says they shouldn't waste their money on a market study, because he knows it will have a negative impact on existing businesses. He says Bowllagio is a good project but it's not good enough for the use of Star bonds. He says it's too similar to entertainment venues that already exist in Wichita.
The state only allows Star bonds if a project shows it won't have a negative impact on existing businesses. It must also attract visitors from 100 miles away and out of state.
Tuesday June 8, 2010
A Wichita development group wants to build a bowling and entertainment center on the west side. But to do it, they're asking for $13 million in state incentives called STAR bonds. After a three hour public hearing Tuesday, the city council voted to defer any action.
The only actions the city council could have taken Tuesday were to move the project to the state for consideration or to not let the state consider the project. The state ultimately decides whether a project qualifies for STAR bonds, an economic development incentive tool. Many council members said they like the development proposal but don't think it necessarily needs tax incentives.
Developers say at full build out, Bowllagio would be a $95 million project. Developers are asking for about $13 million in STAR bonds. Tim Austin represents the developers and says without the incentives it would be a challenge to build the entertainment complex.
The project would be located north of Kellogg on both sides of Maize Road. It would have a bowling alley, bowling training facility, museum, laser tag, game room, a hotel and restaurant. Food Network Star Aaron Schanchez plans to open a Mexican restaurant at the facility. He was at the council meeting promoting the project. He says this would be his first restaurant outside of New York because he believes in the project.
STAR bonds are a state incentive for special economic development projects. For the bonds to be used, the state must first approve creating a STAR bond district. If that happens, STAR bonds allow the Kansas Department of Revenue to take a portion of the sales tax revenue to pay off the bonds. The state requires studies be done to prove the project will truly be an economic development attraction. To get funding, 20% of visitors must come from out of state and 30% from more than 100 miles away. Council member Jeff Longwell says it must also show that the complex won't have an adverse impact on any other bowling facility in town.
Many local bowling alley owners are concerned it will have an adverse impact on business. They told council members that nothing being proposed is a new concept so all it will do is take business away from them. They say they don't mind competition when it's fair, but don't believe the government should subsidize a bowling alley.
Austin says too much focus is being put on the bowling alley. He says it's much more than that and believes it will qualify for STAR bonds. The city wants more information before making a decision. The council says sending it to the state essentially says it supports the project, so it wants to be fully educated before voting. Council member Sue Schlapp says she doesn't know what she thinks yet. She likes the project but would prefer it be built on its own. The council is expected to make a decision next week.
STAR bonds have also been use by the City of Wichita for the Keeper of the Plains Plaza. The city used $13 million in STAR bonds to finance the renovations and bridges. They were also used to build the Kansas Speedway in Kansas City.
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