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.

Schlitterbahn releases statement on indictment of co-owner

Schlitterbahn has released a statement today on the indictment of co-owner Jeffrey W. Henry on charges of second-degree murder in connection with a death on the Verruckt waterslide in Kansas City, Kansas.

Henry was one of the ride’s designers. His indictment by a grand jury was released today by the Wyandotte County District Court.

The statement also is in connection with the indictments of ride designer John Timothy Schooley and the Henry and Sons Construction Company Inc.

Schlitterbahn is defending itself with statements on the indictments, and also with statements on its website that its rides are safe.

The Schlitterbahn statement today:

“This indictment, as in the previous one related to Tyler Miles, is wrought with references to the outtakes of a dramatic, scripted television show, and filled with information that we fully dispute. Jeff Henry has designed waterpark rides the world over. Nearly every waterpark that exists today has an attraction or feature based on his designs or ideas.

“The incident that happened that day was a terrible and tragic accident. We mourn the loss of this child and are devastated for his family. We know that Tyler, Jeff, and John are innocent and that we run a safe operation – our 40 years of entertaining millions of people speaks to that.

“We are confident that their innocence will be proven in court where we know the facts will show this was an accident.”

An earlier Schlitterbahn statement, on March 23, concerned the indictment of the park’s operations director and the Schlitterbahn corporation:

“We were shocked by the allegations being made by the Kansas Attorney General about Tyler and our KC park. The allegation that we operated, and failed to maintain, a ride that could foreseeably cause such a tragic accident is beyond the pale of speculation. Many of us, and our children and grandchildren, have ridden the ride with complete confidence as to its safety. Our operational mantra has been and will forever be Safety First.

“The accusation that we withheld information or altered evidence is completely false. We have operated with integrity from day one at the waterpark – as we do throughout our waterparks and resorts. We put our guests and employees safety first; and safety and maintenance are at the top of our list of priorities.

“Since the date of the incident we have worked closely with law enforcement; at no time have we withheld evidence; at no time have we altered evidence. The indictment uses quoted statements from a reality TV show that was scripted for dramatic effect that in no way reflects the design and construction of the ride.
“Quotes were purported to be from definitive design meetings, when they were, in fact, ‘acting.’

“During the civil matter, attorneys involved noted that we cooperated fully, provided thousands of documents, and that nothing was withheld or tampered with.

“In fact, the indictment presented is so full of false information that it has shocked the Kansas legal community, as you can see in the statement from Tyler Miles’ attorneys below.

“Our legal team will be speaking out against each of the allegations point by point in the coming weeks and months. Rest assured, we stand behind our staff and all our parks. We will be fighting these charges aggressively. We know that Tyler is innocent and that we run a safe operation – our 40 years of entertaining millions of people speaks to that.

“We look forward to proving this in court where we know the facts will prove this was an accident.”

A statement provided by Tyler’s attorneys, Tom and Tricia Bath on March 23:
“The suggestions that C.S.’s death was foreseeable to Tyler Miles, that, with this knowledge Tyler ‘avoided or delayed repairs,’ and that Tyler ‘had covered up similar incidents’ are simply not true. Not only had Tyler ridden the slide numerous times, but, as the State is aware, he had scheduled his wife, to ride it on the day of the accident. These are not the actions of someone who believed the ride to be dangerous.

“The allegation that Tyler knowingly obstructed the investigation is, likewise, false. From the moment of the accident, and continuing until the charges were filed, Tyler cooperated with law enforcement. He did not hide or destroy documents.

“The Constitution requires that an Indictment be based upon legal evidence – not speculation or conjecture. This Indictment is based upon Grand Jury proceedings, which are conducted in secret. While neither we nor the public have had an opportunity to see transcripts of Grand Jury witness testimony, the Indictment is littered with references to evidence that is not legal.
“Only after Tyler is able to obtain transcripts, witness statements and police reports will he, like any citizen, be in a position to fully address these allegations. What we know is that Tyler is innocent, which is why he insisted, at his first court appearance, that we set the matter for jury trial. We look forward to the opportunity to challenge the evidence, in a public forum, and prove Tyler’s innocence.”

A Schlitterbahn statement on the second indictment:

“This indictment, as in the previous one related to Tyler Miles, is wrought with references to the outtakes of a dramatic, scripted television show, and filled with information that we fully dispute. Jeff Henry has designed waterpark rides the world over. Nearly every waterpark that exists today has an attraction or feature based on his designs or ideas.

“The incident that happened that day was a terrible and tragic accident. We mourn the loss of this child and are devastated for his family. We know that Tyler, Jeff, and John are innocent and that we run a safe operation – our 40 years of entertaining millions of people speaks to that.

“We are confident that their innocence will be proven in court where we know the facts will show this was an accident.”

Questions and answers on safety

Schlitterbahn has also posted questions and answers on its website about safety issues, found at https://schlitterbahnnews.com/questions-and-answers-about-schlitterbahn-and-recent-allegations/.

According to Schlitterbahn, the park is safe and has won accolades for its safety, and the rides are inspected every day.

“Every project has a deadline, but the construction of the ride was delayed many times to allow for exhaustive testing and reconfiguration of the ride to maximize safety. We did not open it until it had been thoroughly tested,” Schlitterbahn stated in its question-and-answer section.

No evidence was withheld or tampered with, Schlitterbahn stated on its website.

Schlitterbahn co-owner charged with second-degree murder in KCK waterslide death

Schlitterbahn Waterpark co-owner Jeffrey W. Henry was arrested in connection with a waterslide death in August 2016 in Kansas City, Kansas, and an indictment of second-degree murder was filed in Wyandotte County District Court. Last week, the former Schlitterbahn operations director, Tyler Miles, was indicted along with the corporation on charges of involuntary manslaughter in connection with a death on the Verruckt waterslide.
(Wyandotte Daily file photo)

Jeffrey W. Henry, a co-owner of the Schlitterbahn Waterpark, has been arrested in Texas and a 46-page indictment for second-degree murder has been unsealed in Wyandotte County District Court in connection with an investigation into a death in August 2016 at the Kansas City, Kansas, waterpark.

Henry, besides being the co-owner, was one of the designers of the Verruckt waterslide here.

Also, the new indictment charges John Timothy Schooley, the lead designer of the Verruckt waterslide, and Henry and Sons Construction Company Inc. with second-degree murder. The second indictment was unsealed today by Judge Robert Burns.

Other counts listed by the indictment against Henry, Schooley and the Henry and Sons Construction included five counts of aggravated endangering a child, and 12 counts of aggravated battery, based on injuries sustained by persons who were riding the Verruckt waterslide.

Henry was arrested March 26 in South Padre Island, Texas, by the U.S. Marshals Service, according to a news release from Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt’s office. His next court appearance in Cameron County, Texas, District Court is scheduled for Thursday. Schooley is not in custody at this time.

The arrest and indictment follow on the heels of a grand jury indictment released on Friday of a former Schlitterbahn director of operations, Tyler Austin Miles, on charges of involuntary manslaughter. Miles pleaded not guilty. The indictment also charged Schlitterbahn as a corporation.

Besides involuntary manslaughter, Miles and the corporation also were indicted in connection with injuries sustained by 13 other persons, including four other minors, while riding the waterslide, according to the attorney general’s statement. Those charges include aggravated battery and aggravated endangering a child. In addition, Miles was indicted on two counts of interference with law enforcement, and Schlitterbahn was indicted on one count of interference with law enforcement.

Attorney General Derek Schmidt’s office is handling the case, after a 19-month investigation was conducted. The charges will be prosecuted by the Kansas Attorney General’s Office, which assumed responsibility for the case in December 2016 at the request of the Wyandotte County District Attorney’s Office, according to a news release from the attorney general’s office. Charges contained in both indictments are merely accusations, and each defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.

The Cameron County, Texas, inmate list on Monday showed Jeffrey Henry had been arrested on a Kansas warrant.

A Schlitterbahn spokeswoman released this statement Monday about developments: “Considering the allegations from Friday’s indictment, we were not surprised at the actions taken by the Attorney General to charge Jeff Henry. We as a company and as a family will fight these allegations and have confidence that once the facts are presented it will be clear that what happened on the ride was an unforeseeable accident.”

The Schlitterbahn statement said on Monday that the indictment released last week against Miles and the Schlitterbahn corporation was “full of false information.” The indictment document against Henry was made public on Tuesday.

The Schlitterbahn statement also said, “We were shocked by the allegations being made by the Attorney General about Tyler and our KC park. The allegation that we operated, and failed to maintain, a ride that could foreseeably cause such a tragic accident is beyond the pale of speculation. Many of us, and our children and grandchildren, have ridden the ride with complete confidence as to its safety. Our operational mantra has been and will forever be Safety First.”

The Schlitterbahn statement continued, “Our legal team will be speaking out against each of the allegations point by point in the coming weeks and months. Rest assured, we stand behind our staff and all our parks. We will be fighting these charges aggressively. We know that Tyler is innocent and that we run a safe operation – our 40 years of entertaining millions of people speaks to that.

“We look forward to proving this in court where we know the facts will prove this was an accident.”

A Wyandotte County grand jury looked into the death of a 10-year-old boy, the son of a state legislator, who was riding the Verruckt waterslide and died after his raft went airborne, hitting a pole with nets attached. The boy was decapitatated.

The waterslide at the time was called the tallest in the world. Since the incident, the waterslide has been shut down.

The indictment released Friday against Miles is online at https://www.wycocourtks.org/cases.html.

Schlitterbahn’s attorneys will be answering the allegations point-by-point in the upcoming weeks and months, according to the spokeswoman.

Last week’s indictment also alleged that the former operations director and the Schlitterbahn Waterpark were concealing evidence from authorities.

“The accusation that we withheld information or altered evidence is completely false,” Schlitterbahn said in a statement.

A statement by Tyler Miles’ attorneys, Tom and Tricia Bath, denied that information was withheld. The statement is online at http://wyandottedaily.com/schlitterbahn-makes-statement-about-allegations-contained-in-indictment/.

The indictment against Henry, Schooley and Henry and Sons Construction is online at https://www.wycocourtks.org/uploads/4/4/1/2/4412070/indictment.pdf.

A Texas jail log detailed the booking of a Schlitterbahn co-owner in connection with a waterslide death in August 2016 in Kansas City, Kansas. Jeffrey W. Henry was charged with second-degree murder, aggravated endangering a child and aggravated battery in connection with the death on the waterslide and other injuries on the slide.