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A new attraction in Derby’s STAR bond district has moved forward with developers predicting that work will likely begin this May and be completed in the spring of 2021.

Called the Derby Sports Zone, the indoor and outdoor sports center and restaurant would offer activities such as volleyball, sand soccer, yard games, and others.

Its 3.5-acre site was originally on the north side of the district near the dinosaur park, but was moved further south on Rock Road to an 11.2-acre parcel between the Don Hattan dealership and the Derby Marketplace because of a deed restriction on the sale of alcohol.

To make the project happen, action by the council was needed in order to allow city staff to conduct a bond sale so design and construction may be carried out.

At their Jan. 28 meeting, City Council members voted to adopt an ordinance approving what is known as the First Amendment to the STAR Bond Financing Project Plan. They also adopted a resolution authorizing the Second Amendment of an agreement with Derby Destination Development, the entity heading the district.

The only formal action still needed from the council is approval of the bond sale, which is expected this spring.

The First Amendment includes:

• Use of the $3.1 million remaining from the 2017 STAR bond proceeds for construction of infrastructure and Derby Sports Zone.

• Issuing of $8 million of STAR bonds to be repaid during 20 years – or sooner, depending on tax revenue – to be used for construction of the Sports Zone and infrastructure.

The district is a special taxing area that uses state sales tax revenues generated within it, Derby’s share of its county sales tax revenue in the district, and city transient guest tax revenues from the district.

Four Rock Road attractions in 2021

Officials say the infrastructure would serve approximately 75 acres, making possible future development of multiple retail businesses, restaurants, entertainment attractions, and office uses.

City Manager Kathy Sexton said the Sports Zone is one more move in the district’s development, but while she views it as a positive, having all the pieces fall into place is not a quick process.

“This is not going to happen overnight,” she said. “These STAR bond districts take a long time to develop.”

She points out that the one near the Kansas City racetrack took many years to fill in.

“We expect the same thing here,” she said.

That said, she predicts that the Sports Zone, which she called “a unique business,” will help other businesses, too.

“It’s good for Derby,” she said. “They could have gone to any other city, but they chose Derby.”

Upon completion and once underway, the Sports Zone is estimated to attract approximately 142,000 annual visitors, 35 percent whom would travel farther than 100 miles, according to a report Sexton submitted to the council.

With this move, the Rock Road corridor can boost other attractions, she said.

It now has Rock River Rapids and Field Station: Dinosaurs. This will add to the mix, as well as Decarsky Park on the south side. That park is designed to attract organized ball teams.

New hotel still a long-term requirement

Developer Rick Worner agreed with Sexton and said Derby’s project is actually moving faster than the Kansas City one, which he also worked on. That took five years to develop.

“This is on par with what we hoped,” said Worner, who has developed about six STAR bond districts.

Worner said he believes the bonds will have no problem selling because of a solid market for them.

Guy Gsell, executive director of Field Station: Dinosaurs and who also was at the meeting, said he’s eager to see more development in the district – even if it’s not directly next to his attraction.

“The more people who come to the area, the better off we all are,” he said.

Gsell would like to see additional businesses near Field Station, which is at the north end of Derby, but he said he’s sure that will happen with time.

With Sports Zone and its related restaurant, district developers have met all their mandated requirements from the state except for a new hotel. That has been sidetracked because of a recent spurt of hotel building in Wichita.

“They tried to get a hotel but the timing wasn’t right,” Sexton said. “It’s a soft market as there’s been a lot of hotels built in Wichita.”

In addition, the casino near Mulvane has a hotel and there has been new hotel construction as the south side entrance to the Kansas Turn-pike. That requirement will be met, but with more time, officials say.

Legally, the second amendment allows construction of a new hotel to be completed within a four-year span after bonds are issued.

It also calls for the Sports Zone to be completed within 1-1/2 years after bonds are issued.

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