Schlitterbahn property proposed to become Homefield, an amateur sports and entertainment venue

This plan for Homefield, an amateur sports and entertainment venue proposed for the former Schlitterbahn property, was shown at the Aug. 10 Unified Government Economic Development and Finance Committee meeting. The development is on the agenda for the 5 p.m. Monday, Aug. 31, EDF meeting.

A part owner of Sporting KC, Robb Heineman, is presenting his ideas to the Unified Government for Homefield, an amateur sports, entertainment and sports entertainment venue to be built on the site of the Schlitterbahn water park at 94th and State Avenue.

A proposal for the Homefield development in the UG agenda for Monday night’s committee meeting stated that it would include a $60 million Homefield building with 150,000 square feet, as well as a $15 million Homefield Outdoor facility for training and entertainment programs for water and outdoor sports.

In addition, a $15 million Homefield youth baseball complex would have about eight lighted fields, according to the Monday night UG agenda.

As part of the project, the developer would pay $3 million for the Speer property and a portion of the property at the Kansas City, Kansas, fire station at 9548 State Ave. that is not needed for the fire station, according to the proposal.

The project is scheduled to be discussed at 5 p.m. Monday night, Aug. 31, at the UG Economic Development and Finance Committee meeting. It will be a remote meeting on Zoom and telephone.

According to the agenda, public financing would total $130 million, private would total $200 million private reimbursement would be $5 million, and net private investment would be $195 million.

The proposal also stated that there are no property tax abatements included in this project.

At the Aug. 10 UG committee meeting, specific financial details of the proposal were not yet available. More financial details now are in the agenda for the Aug. 31 committee meeting.

More details about the youth sports development concept

Also at the Aug. 10 UG committee meeting, Heineman said they have all remaining the property Schlitterbahn owned in Wyandotte County, about 230 acres, under contract. The project also has pad sites, with some parcels adjacent to the Menards store on 98th, he said.

He said the site was well located, in an existing district, and has a number of project areas. The site is on State Avenue, just east of I-435, and north of I-70, not far from The Legends Outlets.

The proposed development is an amateur sports, entertainment and sports entertainment venue, he said. Pre-COVID-19 statistics showed that youth sports was a $20 billion industry, larger than the NFL and the fastest-growing sports segment in the United States, faster than professional sports, Heineman said Aug. 10. It was projected to reach $70 billion by 2026, largely around sports tourism, he added.

Youth sports largely takes place in substandard facilities, mom and pop facilities all over the country, which are not necessarily a great environment for kids, he said. Often, parents drop kids off at sports, and sometimes wait in their cars for an hour and a half, he added.

“We think that that is a paradigm that needs to change,” Heineman said at the Aug. 10 meeting, “as amateur sports become a bigger and bigger part of all of our lives as parents, as kids,” he said.

They are taking cues from “Top Golf,” he said, a franchise that uses beautiful facilities, data capture, technology, audio-visual and high-end entertainment, food and beverage experience, turning it into a multi-billion franchise.

“We think Homefield can do that very same thing in the youth sports base,” Heineman said.

One thing that Sporting KC was very successful with was setting a guest experience, he said, focusing on the fan experience and how to design it in such a way that it becomes very attractive, and becomes something the fans come back to.

Heineman said they would focus on player development, including coaching and tactical, speed, strength and agility; health and wellness, besides training, also nutrition services, speed, strength and agility services, and medical services; and a high-end entertainment experience for kids and parents.

“We focus on the spectators as well,” Heineman said. They will take the whole pro experience and bring it to amateur sports, he added.

“We’re going to give every athlete the opportunity to be the best they can be,” Heineman said. It’s not just for career athletes, but for all athletes who want to be the best they can, he added.

In the 150,000-square-foot building, he mentioned courts for volleyball and basketball, turf for lacrosse, football and soccer, and amenities for speed, strength and agility, fitness, performance and medical services.

There also will be e-sports, competitive and training, he added. E-sports interest is increasing, and there are athletes training and getting college scholarships out of it, he said.

Heineman said Paul Rivers will be the president of the development. He has about 20 years experience in the NBA, and has experience in player development.

The development also will create outdoor spaces that will be a little different, he said.

Heineman said on Aug. 10 that he has been working on this project about a year and a half, and it will be something that can be expanded across the country.

“We’re working on deals in Chicago, Milwaukee, Indianapolis, Baltimore, D.C., St. Petersburg, Nashville, Dallas, Austin,” he said.

“We feel this location here has the opportunity to be our flagship, our centerpiece,” Heineman said. “We feel like we can do something distinctly different here that will encompass not only this daily, amateur athlete but also camps and tournaments that we can attract to the area from all over the place and leverage the fact that the Village West and Village East developments are both highly additive to that tourist experience.”

The exterior spaces will include at least eight baseball fields, or up to 16 fields, to be highly concentrated on environments for touranments, scouting and for kids of all ages, he said.

There will be outdoor spaces on the turf side, with at least one field for high school football, and lacrosse, he said. They also plan to use the nearby existing soccer fields with Wyandotte Sporting Fields and Sporting KC, he said.

There will be a lot of outdoor sports, including water sports, he said. They will build a six to eight-acre water amenity that could have paddleboard, dragon boat, surfing and water sports, and use the contour and terrain of trees for mountain biking, carting and other activities, he said.

They have been working on efforts to bring forward destination retailers, tenants at the auto plaza, hotels, multi-family, groceries, food and beverage and others, he said.

“Our expectation is we have probably the ability to deliver almost $200 million of development in the first two to three years of the project,” Heineman said. “We’re excited about that. We think the mixed-use aspect of what we’re doing here is going to make this a really, really vibrant site. And candidly, we feel we’ve got the opportunity here over time to really create what I would call the first amateur sports resort in the United States.”

The amount of ground, the revenue potential from partners and the central location in the region means this place has a ton of potential, he said.

It has been difficult to get the site under the control, he added. They have letters of intent, financing has been arranged and there are a few points to be completed, he added on Aug. 10. Time was important now, he said.

At the Aug. 10 meeting, Commissioner Tom Burroughs said that Heineman has first-class amenities in this community, and he anticipated this would be a first-class one, also. “We look forward to seeing the amateur sports boom,” he said.

The STAR bond redevelopment project at Schlitterbahn is not the first idea that was proposed for the former water park. Earlier, the parent company of Worlds of Fun and Oceans of Fun took an option on it, but their idea did not go forward.

Schlitterbahn was closed after the fatal accident on Aug. 7, 2016, when Caleb Schwab, the son of Kansas Secretary of State Scott Schwab, died on the Verruckt waterslide. The charges that were subsequently filed against the Schlitterbahn owners over the accident were later dismissed.

The proposal for the new Homefield redevelopment also refers to a new auto dealership, but does not give many details on it. According to the proposal, there will be further discussion of a requirement for an auto dealership with $20 million in new sales in project area 2A of the development.

More about the funding for the proposed Homefield development

Sources for funding for the first part of the project would include $75 million in STAR (sales tax revenue) bonds and $75 million in private capital, totaling $150 million, according to agenda information. Some of the STAR bonds funding will come from sales taxes on nearby stores and developments.

The Homefield project would use $55 million; the Homefield Outdoor would use $10 million and the youth baseball project would use $10 million of the $75 million in STAR bonds in the first part of the project, according to agenda information.

The $75 million in private capital would include $3 million for the fire station land, $3.8 million in soft costs, $5 million in Homefield private capital; $46.78 million in additional development with private capital and $16.5 million listed as 50 percent of unreimbursed, to be utilized infrastructure, the agenda stated.

The second part of the funding lists $55 million in STAR bonds and $125 million in private capital, for a total of $180 million, according to the agenda.

The STAR bonds in the second part would be used for $5 million for Homefield Outdoor, $5 million, youth baseball, $5 million to reimburse Homefield private funding, $16.2 million to reimburse land costs, and $23.8 million for site work and other STAR bond eligible work, according to the agenda. Private capital would include $108.5 million for additional development; and $16.5 million as 50 percent of unreimbursed costs, to be utilized infrastructure, according to agenda information for the second part of the funding.

The agenda for the Aug. 31 EDF Committee meeting is at https://wycokck.civicclerk.com/web/UserControls/DocPreview.aspx?p=1&aoid=1730.

The Aug. 10 EDF Committee meeting, with the Homefield segment at the end, is at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_Jv-1RS2rU0.

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