The Unified Government is modifying the STAR bond project for the American Royal because the state will not approve it as it was originally written, according to UG officials.
Unified Government Administrator Doug Bach told the UG Commission Thursday night that the acting secretary of commerce would not approve the local share being held back for the sales tax revenue (STAR) bond project for the American Royal, outside of the Plaza at the Speedway area contained in the district.
“We were going through the final stages of putting the plan together when we received some comments from the acting secretary of commerce regarding our wording that was in the sharing of local sales tax,” Bach told the commission.
The UG had put in a provision that held back some of the local share, he said.
“Recognizing it has to be adjusted to be in conformance with how the state would like us to move forward, we’ve modified that portion of the plan and also made some adjustments to the dates as we go forward to a bond issue on this property,” Bach said.
The $160 million project was approved in 2017, with $80 million in STAR bonds and $80 million to be raised in private donations, according to Katherine Carttar, interim UG economic development director.
The American Royal capital fundraising campaign began this summer, according to Carttar.
The UG started a public hearing on the bond issue at the Nov. 29 meeting, and the public hearing is being continued until the next UG Commission meeting, Bach said.
The only contribution from the Plaza at the Speedway portion of the STAR bond district is a state sales tax, while the rest of the district will include state and local sales tax, Carttar said.
Korb Maxwell, an attorney representing the American Royal, said this meeting was just one step in a long process. He said they would be back before the commission later for the development agreement, zoning and land use planning process, and issuance of the bonds.
“The key fundamentals of our site plan are still intact that we’ve always had here,” Maxwell said.
The 5,000-seat arena, and a warmup arena, will be modern, state-of-the-art and will be tailored for the Royal’s agricultural events, Maxwell said. It also will be able to be used for other events the community may want to hold, he said.
There will be at least 400,000 square feet of exhibition space that can hold up to 2,000 animals in them at a time, and this space also could be used for other exhibitions for the community at other times, he said.
“The legacy of Neal Patterson is to make sure we have an educational events center,” Maxwell said. “This is, as Cliff Illig always said, a flag pole for agriculture in Kansas, but it is also a way to train folks in Wyandotte County and all throughout the Kansas City region and all throughout the nation, what does agriculture mean to our community, and what better place to do that than in the state of Kansas.”
Carttar said there will be a first drawdown of a $10 million bond issuance and a $10 million match so that the American Royal could get started on their project. These funds will allow for land acquisition and infrastructure for the entire site, she said.
The remainder of the STAR bonds, $70 million, will remain in escrow until the American Royal has raised the remaining $70 million in private funding, Carttar said.
At the Dec. 6 UG Commission meeting, the UG plans to finish the public hearing process, and then vote on the amended project plan and development agreement.
If approved at the Dec. 6 meeting, the bond issuance would be in late December, she said. Infrastructure construction would begin in spring 2019, with the American Royal Complex construction beginning in late 2019, she said.
Marcia Harrington, of the Wyandotte Economic Development Council, appeared at the public hearing in support of the STAR bond project plan.
“We believe that the cornerstone of this entire development is the iconic American Royal and it provides a unique opportunity in several ways, including the education center that bridges the gap between the consumer and the agricultural industry, that will allow for experiences unlike any in the world; a livestock equestrian exposition facility that will attract significant numbers of new tourists, and that’s tourism dollars that will be spent in our county around the metro Kansas City area,” Harrington said.
We’re also seeing interest from agra-related businesses and organizations that have a desire to locate out by the American Royal, and that is a component of our marketing and outreach efforts going forward, and it positions us as a linchpin within the animal health corridor stretching between Manhattan and Columbia, Missouri, making it a strong connection to our human and pet food manufacturing sector, supported by the WYEDC’s attraction and retention efforts,” Harrington said. “We look forward to working with the American Royal and appreciate your support of the amended plan.”