Construction begins on Old Chicago

10/8/2013

By SCOTT AUST

By SCOTT AUST

saust@gctelegram.com

Representatives of Stone Development told the Finney County Commission on Monday that construction of the Old Chicago restaurant has started and should be completed in early January, while the remainder of the project, a new water park and hotel, should open sometime next fall.

Located at the former Fun Center property south of Menards, the $25 million development, initiated by hotelier Amro Samy, includes a 22,000-square-foot indoor water park, a 96-room hotel and a 7,000 square-foot Old Chicago restaurant.

As part of the financing for the project, the county approved an agreement that allows the use of transient guest taxes collected by the Sleep Inn and the new hotel for the water park portion of the project for up to 20 years. The transient guest tax is a 6 percent tax every hotel charges overnight guests.

Bed tax funds won't start being collected until the water park opens next fall. Money would be paid quarterly to the city, which would then pass it along to the developers according to the terms agreed upon in a development agreement, Evan Fitts, an attorney with Kansas City-based firm Polsinelli, said.

The financing also includes a tax increment financing district and a community improvement district, both of which already have been approved by Garden City.

"There's a pad on the site. Site demolition has been done, and it's ready for all the other construction," Fitts said.

The restaurant should be completed by early January, and construction is anticipated to start on the water park and hotel around that time. The water park and hotel will take about eight months to build and are expected to open sometime in the fall of 2014.

* Commissioners signed off on the appointment of two new board members to the Finney County Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Kim Inderlied, CVB executive director, said the CVB board sent out inquiries to all local hoteliers to fill the open spots and received applications from PJ Patel, with the Continental Inn, and Kerry Spanier, with the Dusty Trail Inn.

Inderlied said positions on the 10-member board were open because one board member resigned to focus on business matters and one was removed due to excessive absences from board meetings. According to CVB bylaws, the makeup of the board must include six hoteliers and the other four can be business people representing entities affected by visitors and conventions.

Inderlied also provided commissioners with a quarterly report concerning the CVB grant program that indicated that so far this year, CVB has paid out $137,500 in grants, which provided an estimated economic impact back to the community of $3.62 million.

"On average, every dollar we spent in grant funding brought us back $26.37. That's a pretty good return on investment," she said.

Inderlied said a conservative formula was used to calculate return on investment that factors in the estimated number of locals and the amount they spend, day trippers, and overnight visitors. For overnight visitors, Inderlied said it's estimated they will spend $167 per day, per person, while the state average is in the neighborhood of $254.

Another $100,000 in CVB expenses this year have been for advertising, highway signs, travel events and shows and promotional items. Inderlied said CVB handed out more than 8,000 promotional items at the Kansas State Fair this fall.

"Does this give us good bang for the buck? I think absolutely it does," she said. "I think the increase we saw at our balloon classic was because we were talking it up at the fair. It was a chance to pull people in, show them what's happening, and we had a really good response."

In other activities, Inderlied said she has been working with Martin Segovia, Garden City High School athletic director, about trying to land more state sports competitions in Garden City. She announced that two tournaments are coming to town this month, a 6A regional girls tennis tournament on Saturday, and the 6A girls golf championship will be held here Oct. 21.

"Those are two big wins for Martin, and we'll certainly be assisting him any way we can," she said.

* Commissioners finalized the financing of the Finney County Exhibition Building renovation by approving agreements for a three-year lease purchase agreement with Western State Bank.

The commission approved a master lease agreement and a sublease agreement. The master lease agreement leases the building to Western State Bank for $850,000, the amount being financed for the renovation, and the sublease leases the building back to the county and includes repayment of the financed amount.

The county will begin making monthly payments for three years, starting January 2014, with a 1.05 percent interest rate, which amounts to about $14,500 in interest over the three-year period.

Interior work on the project is scheduled to begin Oct. 28 and last through the end of the year.

* Doug Keller, Keller-Leopold Insurance, said the county's insurance premium increased 5.16 percent this year for property, general liability, commercial auto, inland marine, workers compensation, crime, linebacker, law enforcement and umbrella coverage.

Keller also told the commission that the county has received a dividend check of nearly $65,000 as part of the Kansas County Safety Dividend Program through EMC Insurance Companies. Over the past five years, the county has received more than $352,000 in annual dividend payments.

* Commissioners signed a resolution officially prohibiting truck traffic on Farmland Road.

Last month, the commission voted to prohibit through truck traffic on Farmland Road between Kansas Highway 156 and Schulman Avenue after people who live along the road complained about dust, tearing up the road and safety issues caused by truck traffic taking a shortcut on Farmland between highways 156 and 50.

Public Works Director John Ellermann said signs have been ordered and should arrive within a few weeks.

* Commissioners recognized Harvey Drake for 20 years of service to Finney County working in the building maintenance department.

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