City commission gives initial OK to water park proposal
By SCOTT AUST
The Garden City Commission gave its initial blessing Tuesday to a proposed water park, hotel and restaurant development that would be located at the former Fun Center property near the bypass and Schulman Avenue.
Local hotelier Amro Samy plans to build a $25 million development that includes a 22,000-square-foot indoor water park, a 90-room hotel and a 6,000-square-foot national level restaurant. The type of restaurant hasn't been determined, but things are leaning toward a pizza eatery, according to Evan Fitts, an attorney with Polsinelli, a Kansas City-based law firm working with Samy on the project.
"We're really excited about this project," Samy said. "For a long time we've been looking for ways to make improvements for our younger ones."
The thought was to create a water park that could be open year-round.
On Tuesday, the city commission approved a memorandum of understanding with Stone Development Inc. that outlines two incentives the developers are seeking for the project — Tax Increment Financing and a Community Improvement District.
The city also adopted a resolution stating its intent to create a redevelopment district for the project, and set a public hearing for July 2 regarding creation of the TIF district. A development agreement also will need to be prepared and acted on at a future commission meeting.
The TIF allows increased property taxes generated by the improved property to be used to finance construction of infrastructure for the project, and the CID would allow property owners to levy an additional 1 percent sales tax on their customers, not only within the new development but on sales at the Sleep Inn and Clarion Inn, both Samy-owned properties.
Under a decision made by the Finney County Commission on Monday, Transient guest taxes collected from the new hotel and the Sleep Inn will also be used to finance the water park.
Fitts said supporters see the water park as a destination/tourism attraction for Garden City residents and an opportunity to attract outside visitors.
"We view this water park as a great opportunity to capitalize on the city's tremendous draw. Frankly, it's astonishing to see just how far out into the surrounding area the city draws," he said.
The water park could pull in 35,000 out-of-town visitors per year, who would spend $6.8 million during their stay, or an estimated $194 per visitor, according to a market study the developers had done. The study anticipates an additional 23,000 new overnight stays that would benefit both the new hotel and existing hotels in town, as well as 126 construction jobs and an estimated 104 full-time jobs.
The water park would help Garden City, which already gets a lot of Monday through Thursday business travelers, increase hotel stays on Saturday and Sunday, and also compete with attractions in other communities, Fitts said.
Commissioners asked what the timetable is for the development.
Samy said he hopes to move dirt and start demolition of the Fun Center as soon as they are allowed. He said he would like to break ground on the restaurant "before the start of football season."
In other business:
* Det. Clint Brock and Shea Sinclair, executive director of the Western Kansas Community Foundation, awarded $500 scholarships to eight senior students active in the Neighborhood Improvement Program. The scholarships will be put into an account at whatever school the student plans to attend.
Scholarship recipients included: Efren Frayre, Isaira Hernandez, Trenton Nevola, Victoria Newell, Dylan Patel, Yetzubelli Rangel, Veronica Sanchez and Michael Wadel.
Brock said NIP was started about four years ago. Its main focus was trying to reduce gang crime, increase pride in neighborhoods and improve the image of Garden City and its youth. The group is on its 35th project, and has had more 1,800 students volunteer on projects over the years who have helped clean up more than 300 tons of trash, used over 100 gallons of paint to paint cover graffiti, and been involved in other community service projects.
"I've been involved with a group of kids at the high school that over the last four and a half years has exceeded any expectation I've ever had," he said.
Brock said the scholarship program began a couple of years ago and is based on a student's participation in the NIP program, not on grades or family income.
* Commissioners approved a proclamation designating May 21, 2013, as Lt. Randy Pratt Day. Fire Chief Allen Shelton said Pratt retired Jan. 1 after 23 years of service. Pratt served 15 years as a lieutenant, was an instructor for Firefighter I and II training and was on the rescue squad.
"We're very proud of Randy. We hate to see him leave our organization, but he's continuing his service to the community by working for the Sheriff's Department," Shelton said. "We're very proud of him and wish him the very best."
* Commissioners recognized Megan Cady, a fifth-grader at Charles O. Stones Intermediate Center, for winning the local Arbor Day poster contest and Southwest Regional poster contest.
* Commissioners approved a proclamation designating May 25, 2013, as National Missing Children's Day in Garden City.