The Garden City Commission on Tuesday approved a memorandum of understanding with GC Investments, Inc., for phase 1 of the Sports of the World STAR Bond development.

Evan Fitts of Polisnelli Law in Kansas City, who is representing GCI, said during Tuesday’s meeting that the MOU is a non-binding agreement that will “lay out the terms” that the city and GCI may ultimately agree to for phase 1 of the project. GCI is owned locally by Cecil O'Brate and Amro Samy.

On Jan. 17, Kansas Department of Commerce interim secretary Nick Jordan notified the city that the project was approved and that KDOC had authorized the issuance of $25.4 million in revenue bonds. Of that, $24.6 million will be used for the phase one project.

Since that decision, GCI has been working on the phase 1 plan, said Steve Cottrell, assistant to the city manager.

The MOU designates GCI as the master developer of the project and also plans for two phases in the development, which will involve separate bonds.

“When we got into this, we thought it was very important to kick off a very strong first phase of development, so we wanted to do something that was manageable for us to construct … and was manageable for use to operate,” Fitts said. “This could continue to evolve as the process develops.”

In December 2014, the city commission approved an ordinance to create the STAR Bond district. Originally, plans were to use a portion of city and state sales taxes to build a major league soccer training and development facility. While that idea didn't pan out, the Sports of the World concept gained momentum over time.

Phase 1 of the project will include indoor soccer fields that can be be broken down and become six partial fields, four multi-purpose basketball courts, a trampoline park, indoor baseball batting cages, sand volleyball courts; outdoor pickleball courts, as well as outdoor cornhole courts.

“It is a true multi-sports complex, something a lot people are going to use for a lot of different things,” Fitts said.

The facility will be located on approximately 32 acres on the east side of Garden City near Stone Development and Schulman Crossing.

In addition to the sports facilities, there will be seating, a restaurant, locker rooms, event rooms, conference facilities and tournament facilities, Fitts said.

“We’re trying to to do something that will truly drive visitation and make this project a place where people can come and conduct tournaments, conduct events, draw visitation from the surrounding areas and serve them, as well,” Fitts said.

Sales Tax Revenue (STAR) Bonds provide Kansas municipalities the opportunity to issue bonds to finance the development of major commercial, entertainment and tourism areas and to use the sales tax revenue generated by the development to pay off the bonds. In order to be considered a major commercial entertainment and tourism area, a project must be capable of being characterized as a statewide and regional destination.

Phase 1 of the development is projected to cost around $37 million, Fitts said.

“That’s going to continue to evolve. If anything, that’s going to go up, but that gives you some idea of the capital investment we’re talking about,” Fitts said.

The MOU approved on Tuesday acknowledges that the Phase 1 bonds will be sold by private placement as authorized by the city commission in August 2017, Cottrell said, noting that a developer’s agreement between the city and GCI will be presented to the commission for consideration at a later date.

“In the intervening time, the city and the developers will be in contact with the secretary of commerce to obtain final approval of the Phase 1 project and bonding,” Cottrell said. “Construction on the STAR Bond project must commence within two years of KDOC approval of the Project Plan.”

Cottrell sad there is no cost to the city related to the MOU. Any city expense, other than the portion of the city's share of county sales tax, will be identified in the development agreement. Prior to issuing the STAR Bonds, the commission will need to officially pledge the available unallocated sales tax revenue for STAR Bond debt.

Fitts said GCI decided to break the project into two phases because GCI did not want to get ahead of itself, and because land acquisitions may be necessary.

“… We have a balance of the land… and potential land acquisitions on which we can do a second phase,” Fitts said. “We have authorization from the secretary (of commerce) for a certain amount of money, and we have a vision that works very well. ... But there is more opportunity in the future."

Fitts said the ice rink that community members have expressed interest in having will be a part of phase two of the project.

According to Fitts, Garden City has seen “tremendous expansion and growth” over the last few years, something GCI hopes to take advantage of.

“We’re trying to capture on that,” Fitts said of Garden City’s growth. “The economy is good, the marketing is good, the bonds are marketable and we don’t want to miss that by trying to go too big too quickly. Just like everything else happening here, we believe it will come with time.”

Fitts said the next step would be approving a developers agreement between GCI and the city, and then taking it to the secretary of commerce for approval of a budget and bond issuance.

“We’re trying to start construction as soon as the end of this year. It is very possible at this point we’ll miss the construction window, so it may spill over into the beginning of next year,” Fitts said of Phase 1. “We’re really focused on putting together a quality project that we know we can get off the ground. We’re eager to see what kind of visitation we can drive.”


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