Parent company of Worlds of Fun has right to buy Schlitterbahn KC waterpark

Cedar Fair Entertainment has acquired the right to purchase the Schlitterbahn Kansas City waterpark, according to an announcement today. The park’s Verruckt water ride was taken down last year after the death of a boy on the ride in August 2016. (File photo)

According to an announcement today by Cedar Fair Entertainment, the parent company of Worlds of Fun, the company has the right to purchase the Schlitterbahn Waterpark in Kansas City, Kansas, for $6 million.

Cedar Fair, based in Sandusky, Ohio, also announced today it is purchasing two other Schlitterbahn waterparks, in New Braunfels and Galveston, Texas, for $261 million.

Michael Russell, spokesman for Cedar Fair, said today that Cedar Fair will retain the right to acquire the Kansas City Kansas, Schlitterbahn property for future development, but it has not exercised that right.

“It has to pass through the next phase of diligence before we have a ‘go, no-go’ decision on whether to exercise that right,” Russell said.

Russell said Cedar Fair knows about the history of the death of a boy on Aug. 7, 2016, on Schlitterbahn KC’s Verruckt ride, at the time the world’s tallest water slide. He said if Cedar Fair exercises the option to buy, it would change the name of the Schlitterbahn KC waterpark. None of Cedar Fair’s parks is named Cedar Fair, he added. Cedar Fair plans to retain the Schlitterbahn name on the Galveston and New Braunfels parks, he said.

Russell said Cedar Fair has a deep history of going into regions, acquiring high-value assets, and then investing in them. Its biggest park is Cedar Point in Sandusky, Ohio, near the corporate headquarters. In the top tier of its parks are Knotts Berry Farm in California and Canada’s Wonderland in Toronto. It currently has 13 parks and the two Texas parks would increase that to 15.

“I think that if we found that our next phase of due diligence passed muster, that we would look to redevelop and rebrand that property to take advantage of the rapid development going on around it, and it’s in proximity to our Worlds of Fun,” Russell said.

Russell said he would view the Schlitterbahn KC park’s closeness to the Worlds of Fun and Oceans of Fun parks in Kansas City, Missouri, as an advantage to Cedar Fair.

“If everything pans out, we see opportunity there,” Russell said. “There’s a lot of great economic development going on around that property. We could see that property offering something that Worlds of Fun and Oceans of Fun does not offer. I think we would broaden our reach to the west, and we could develop a season pass following that then would have access to both parks.”

If Cedar Fair purchases the Schlitterbahn KC waterpark, it would invest in the park to bring it up to Cedar Fair standards, he said. Cedar Fair already has two separately gated water parks, he said, and it also has water parks within its amusement parks.

The Schlitterbahn KC waterpark did not open this year, as it usually does, on Memorial Day.

Schlitterbahn spokeswoman Winter Prosapio stated that the company had a general statement about the sale of the two parks posted on its website:

“For the past 50 years, the Schlitterbahn family has focused all its resources, talent, and energy into building Schlitterbahn Waterparks and Resorts into an iconic Texas brand.

“It is now time for the company to enter a new and brighter stage of development and growth.

“We have entered into an agreement with Cedar Fair to purchase our interest in both our New Braunfels and Galveston parks and our New Braunfels resort property. Our South Padre waterpark and resort will be owned by one of the Henry families and in time will be re-branded. Corpus Christi will remain a Diamond Beach property.

“Cedar Fair is a dynamic, brand-oriented company. Under Cedar Fair’s leadership, the Schlitterbahn brand will have an opportunity to grow and expand like the early days when the sky was the limit. While it’s a difficult decision, after several challenging years, we believe that our team, communities, guests, and fans are going to enjoy what lies ahead. We believe Cedar Fair, with their approach to embracing parks that have a unique footprint, will be a phenomenal owner, and with the talented people that are the Schlitterbahn Family, will take Schlitterbahn Waterparks and Resorts to the next level of world-class family entertainment.

“Rest assured, the future of Schlitterbahn Waterparks and Resorts is as bright as a July day in Texas. We will always be your hottest, coolest time in Texas!”

In April, a financial statement posted by EPR Properties, which had loaned money to Schlitterbahn, stated: “The Company expects the payoff of the mortgages associated with the Schlitterbahn waterparks of approximately $190.0 million during the second quarter.” (http://investors.eprkc.com/file/Index?KeyFile=397708950)

Doug Bach, Unified Government administrator, said at the Thursday evening UG meeting that said he had been informed that representatives from Cedar Fair will be contacting him in the future to have a conversation about how they can move forward with acquisition of the Schlitterbahn KC waterpark, and discussion on the option they have in that area.

“I look forward to that,” he said.

The announcement of the option on Schlitterbahn waterpark in Kansas City, Kansas, on Thursday was unrelated to a couple of items on Thursday night’s UG agenda mentioning Schlitterbahn, he said. They involved property formerly owned by Schlitterbahn.

One of the items involved the Browndog 9801 LLC purchase of an existing facility, a lot from SVV (Schlitterbahn) at 9801 Troup that is a car wash. An agreement was approved that would ensure that the new owner of the property would assume the same agreement made by Schlitterbahn with the UG, according to the UG agenda. This agreement was approved by the commission, 9-1.

A second item allowed for the building of Blue Cross and Blue Shield Spira Care Medical Center at 9801 Parallel Parkway. The property originally was owned by SVV (Schlitterbahn) and was sold to Bomarto in November 2016. C-Store, operating this project, is subdividing a lot into two parts, and SC made an agreement to purchase the vacant lot next to the convenience store on Feb. 7, 2019, according to agenda documents. SC plans a medical treatment and office facility. The agreement, according to the agenda, was to ensure that SC would continue the UG agreements made with Schlitterbahn. This agreement passed the commission, 10-0.

Wyandotte County 4-H programs find a ‘home away from home’ at the Due West Ranch

4-H youth and leaders on Friday posed at the Due West Ranch at 134th and Donahoo Road in Kansas City, Kansas, before a ribbon-cutting to celebrate a partnership between 4-H and Due West. Left to right were Mary Sharp, co-owner of Due West Ranch; Nicole Crosson, Wyandotte County 4-H youth development agent; Chandler Harris, Madi Bone, Delaney Schempp and Macey Schempp. (Staff photo)

by Mary Rupert

Wyandotte County 4-H programs and events will now be held at the Due West Ranch at 134th and Donahoo Road in Kansas City, Kansas.

Youth and program leaders gathered on Friday for a ribbon-cutting to celebrate the new partnership between 4-H and the Due West Ranch.

Nicole Crosson, 4-H youth development agent, said the new site at Due West will offer 4-H programming. An incentive program will be offered for youth enrolled in 4-H, she said, with discounted rates offered. Also, youth programming still will take place at the 4-H office at 1216 N. 79th, she added.

Area youth will be able to sign up at school for one of the horse programs, for example, and then go to the Due West Ranch for the program, Crosson said.

It is a way for 4-H to bring programs in a farm or ranch setting to urban children, she added.

There are horses, dogs and goats at the ranch, among other animals, she said. 4-H is planning a lot of agricultural programs there, she said.

Some programs that might be held at Due West include gardening projects and livestock projects, she said, including some food safety instruction. There also is an arena and meeting space.

The owners are really gracious and want to do education programming, Crosson said. The owners have already held conferences and educational-related events at the Due West Ranch, she added.

For several years, Due West Ranch has offered a riding center. The ranch, founded in 2002, moved its location a little west of the original one on 121st in 2015, and the new location has an indoor and outdoor arena and facilities designed for educational purposes, according to Bill Basler, co-owner of Due West Ranch. He said Due West’s arena has already served as a substitute site for a few 4-H horse shows when another site was unusable because of the weather.

Basler, who has extensive experience in training and selling horses, said the ranch is on 40 acres and it includes meeting spaces. An event space was built in a former shop, heating and cooling was added, and it has been used for graduation and wedding parties as well as meetings, he said.

He said Due West will be continuing its present operations while adding 4-H educational programs. Currently, there are about 140 riding lessons offered there each week, he added. Besides lessons, Due West offers boarding, camps, training and events.

For several years, the ranch also has served as the home for a therapeutic riding center that specializes in helping persons with disabilities. The ranch has six instructors who have been certified in therapeutic horsemanship instruction and riding instruction.

The 4-H program in Wyandotte County now serves about 8,000 youth through different programs, according to officials. While the youth club format still is ongoing, 4-H now also serves children through programs in the schools.

“It fits really well with 4-H,” said Mary Sharp, co-owner at Due West. She is a teacher in Olathe who has also offered riding lessons for about 32 years. She also has served as a long-time horse show judge and a collegiate equestrian coach. “We’re really excited to give the 4-H community a home. Anything education-related we’re interested in.”

The focus of Due West is on equine, with an education-based equine operation, Sharp said. Agriculture has always been important to her family, she said. The lessons at Due West focus on horsemanship and safety.

“Another big connection that we’re excited about that we can associate with 4-H is the move of the American Royal to Wyandotte County,” Sharp said. “This is going to be the epicenter of ag ed.”

“It’s definitely going to open doors to get inner-city youth exposed to agriculture,” Crosson said. Youth who go into agriculture don’t have to be in production, they can be agricultural scientists, researchers, extension agents and many other careers, she said.

Ailee Lindsay, in the 4-H horse program, posed with a display about the Wyandotte County 4-H horse project during an event Friday at the Due West Ranch. (Staff photo)

Bill Basler, co-owner of Due West Ranch, said Due West will be continuing its present operations while adding 4-H programs. (Staff photo)
Nicole Crosson, Wyandotte County 4-H youth development agent, said the new partnership with Due West is a way for 4-H to bring programs in a farm or ranch setting to urban children. (Staff photo)
4-H youth will have the opportunity to use a meeting space in a converted shop at Due West for their meetings in the future. (Staff photo)
Due West Ranch provides boarding for horses and offers about 140 riding lessons each week. (Staff photo)
Due West Ranch is located at 13400 Donahoo Road in Kansas City, Kansas. (Staff photo)

Community leaders hope new Boulevard Lofts project sparks more development near downtown KCK

Ground was broken Friday for the $11 million Boulevard Lofts project near 8th and Washington Boulevard in Kansas City, Kansas. (Staff photo by Mary Rupert)
An artist’s drawing of the Boulevard Lofts project near 8th and Washington Boulevard in Kansas City, Kansas.

by Mary Rupert

As ground was broken Friday for the new Boulevard Lofts project near 8th and Washington Boulevard, community leaders expressed hope that the project will spark more development near the downtown Kansas City, Kansas, area.

“This project is what we call a catalytic project,” said Unified Government 4th District Commissioner Harold Johnson, “because we think it’s going to catalyze this area.”

“It’s going to change the landscape of this area,” UG 4th District Commissioner Harold Johnson said at the groundbreaking Friday for Boulevard Lofts. (Staff photo by Mary Rupert)

Commissioner Johnson said the first UG master plan for the Northeast area, approved last November, is what is driving this development now.

“It’s going to change the landscape of this area,” Johnson said. “I’m just glad to see this day. Within 18 months or less, we plan to see a building standing here and doing a grand opening of the Boulevard Lofts.”

There will be more developments after this, with the whole neighborhood transformed, Johnson predicted. It will be a place where people can live close to downtown, with amenities all around it, he added.

Now’s the time to capitalize on the momentum of the downtown Kansas City, Kansas, area, said developer Kelley Hrabe at Friday’s groundbreaking for the Boulevard Lofts project. (Staff photo by Mary Rupert)

“It’s going to be a transformative project that’s going to completely change the way this boulevard looks, the way this neighborhood looks, and how they socialize and interact with one another,” Kelley Hrabe, co-owner and founder of Prairie Fire Developer Group, the developer, said. Community Housing of Wyandotte County is a partner in this $ 11 million apartment project.

There will be a total 50 units. The 38-unit apartment project will be a mix of 1, 2 and 3-bedroom units, Hrabe said, and also some restricted units and some market-rate units, he said. Along Everett will be two six-plexes, Hrabe said.

“We feel that now’s a good time for downtown Kansas City, Kansas, with all the momentum, with KU Med, with the Merc, with other good developments that CHWC is doing, now’s the time to capitalize on that momentum and continue the great development that’s happening here,” Hrabe said.

UG 1st District at Large Commissioner Melissa Bynum, who went to high school at Sumner Academy, not far from the building site, said they are breaking ground on this project not only because the developer and team came together, but also because Beatrice Lee stayed and Beverly Easterwood stayed in the neighborhood, planned and dreamed.

Bynum said she had seen the decline and disinvestment in this area, and for years she wanted to be part of making this place beautiful, better and strong.

UG Commissioner Melissa Bynum, 1st District at large, said the presence of Beatrice Lee, Beverly Easterwood and the Douglass-Sumner Neighborhood was important to this project. (Staff photo by Mary Rupert)

“To say I’m honored to be here today is a huge understatement,” Bynum said, “to be just a small part of a project that represents so much more than some new apartments. What we’re doing here is so much more. It’s a testament to Mrs. Lee and Ms. Easterwood, and all of their neighbors, never giving up on their neighbors, never giving up on this place they love. It’s a testament to the voices and the values of those of you who took the time to participate in planning your future, and the builders who believe that KCK is a good place to be. And it’s a vision for families who will have a safe home, here in the heart of Douglass-Sumner.”

Without the work of the Douglass-Sumner Neighborhood group, including Beverly Easterwood and Beatrice Lee, this project wouldn’t have been done, according to Hrabe.

Beverly Easterwood, president of the Douglass-Sumner Neighborhood, said she believes the new housing development will spur other development in the area. (Staff photo by Mary Rupert)

Beverly Easterwood, president of the Douglass-Sumner Neighborhood, said the group has been involved in the project since the beginning, and the developer has listened intently to their suggestions.

“Mrs. (Beatrice) Lee had a vision a long time ago to clean up this community, to get rid of all the negative influences,” Easterwood said. “We were at the end of our life cycle in the neighborhood and we needed new development, so she wanted to prepare the neighborhood for that new development.”

“These guys had already laid the groundwork, they were just waiting for the opportunity. They had everything ready to go, it was just a matter of time until we came across them,” Hrabe said about Lee, Easterwood and the Douglass-Sumner Neighborhood.

Lee said this has been her life for several years, just building slowly, trying to get someone to listen to her and the Douglass-Sumner Neighborhood.

“Everything’s about where we live, how we live and what we’re going to leave for the legacy,” said Beatrice Lee. (Staff photo by Mary Rupert)

“Everything’s about where we live, how we live and what we’re going to leave for the legacy,” Lee said.

Easterwood said Lee and the neighborhood group have spent a lot of effort in the past to make sure to have the land prepared for new development. She believes this project will spur new development.

“We think people are laying back waiting for somebody else to get started,” Easterwood said. Now that it’s started, other developments should follow.

William Boyice Jr. said he hoped more housing will mean more businesses will locate in the area. (Staff photo by Mary Rupert)

A member of the Douglass-Sumner Neighborhood, William C. Boyice Jr., said the project means quite a lot to him. Boyice is with the Tenth Street Jewelry shop, a family business on North 10th.

“If we can get some more housing maybe we can get some more enterprises here,” he said. “I grew up in this area, and lived here all my life. It’s good to see the change.”

“Mixed-use residential is the key for future redevelopment,” State Sen. David Haley, D-4th Dist., said. These developments draw residents of mixed incomes. He said he was always happy to see new developments.

Hrabe said co-development partner CHWC has been important to the project.

Through this project, CHWC will provide access to good housing and good food, according to Brennan Crawford, CHWC executive director. (Staff photo by Mary Rupert)

Brennan Crawford, executive director of CHWC, said historically, CHWC has been a single-family home builder. While home ownership is still at the core of what they do, everyone is beginning to recognize that affordable, high-quality rental housing is a critical component in the affordable housing crisis in the nation, he said.

This project will include an effort to integrate urban agriculture and gardening into Boulevard Lofts. It will include a garden and food demonstration center, with plans for honey production.

Through this partnership, CHWC will be providing access to good housing and healthy food for 50 families in the area, and that is transformative, Crawford said.

Fred Bentley, director of the Kansas Housing Resources Corp., said there is a need for more housing here. (Staff photo by Mary Rupert)

Fred Bentley, director of the Kansas Housing Resources Corp., said there are more than $100 million worth of projects going on now in Kansas City.

“We need more resources,” he said. “We need a lot of housing.”

Kansas Housing Resources Corp. put about $9 million in federal funding into this $11 million project, according to Hrabe. It will use affordable federal housing tax credits from KHRC.

The Board of Public Utilities has given a $250,000 economic development grant to the project, which was important to help get the financing done, Hrabe said. Also involved in this project are the UG, Boston Financial Investment Management, M1 Bank, ODIMO Architecture, Continental Consulting Engineers and Vireo.

Easterwood said a cleanup has been scheduled for Saturday morning at 8th and Washington Boulevard, and there will be a lunch and entertainment afterward starting at noon. Vegetation in the area will be cleared.

Audience members chatted before the groundbreaking on Friday for the Boulevard Lofts project at 8th and Washington Boulevard. (Staff photo by Mary Rupert)
Audience members listened to speeches on Friday at the groundbreaking for the Boulevard Lofts project at 8th and Washington Boulevard. (Staff photo by Mary Rupert)