After months of planning and discussion, developers say they're ready to start building a $20 million resort hotel and conference center at Clinton Lake.
But first they need about $5 million.
Members of the Clinton Lake Hotel Developers LLC say they want a commitment from Lawrence and Douglas County government and other local sources for the project. Of that amount, an estimated $4 million would go to build the conference center. Another $1.2 million would pay for water and sewer connections to city services.
Steve Kelly, director of business and development for the Kansas Department of Commerce and Housing, said the co-developers, Dave Mashburn and Dan Carr of CB Richard Ellis in Kansas City, Mo., have expressed a need for Lawrence-area help with costs of infrastructure related to the resort.
"The project is at a point if it's going to proceed they need to get the city and local community more engaged with the process to see if there is local support," Kelly said.
The financial support could come from city and/or county governments or private investors, he said. KDOCH and the Kansas Department of Transportation have committed about $1 million for the project.
Lawrence and Douglas County officials said the likelihood of the resort getting $5 million in city or county money was dicey.
"If the Clinton Resort is a sound business idea, let the private sector do its own heavy lifting," said Douglas County Commissioner Charles Jones. "Those who would enjoy the profits should also bear the costs and risks."
He said he saw a lot of warning signs since the private sector hadn't stepped forward.
Jones attended a Tuesday meeting of ECO2, a task force formed by the Lawrence Chamber of Commerce, at which the Clinton Lake project was discussed.
He said he expected resort-related issues to come before the city and county commissions soon, but that he was not enthusiastic about the millions in public support being sought by developers.
"$5.2 million is certainly not on our radar screens as a priority as far as I'm concerned," Jones said.
Lawrence Mayor Jim Henry said he wanted to set up a meeting soon so the developers could present their request.
"There will be heavy discussion," Henry said. "That's a significant amount of money, and we have to look at every particular aspect. I like the idea of the resort, but I'm not looking to give away the farm."
Henry said the city "has to watch the purse strings" because it has committed money elsewhere -- more than $40 million between building a new wastewater treatment plant and the Lawrence Arts Center.
Another partner could be Kansas University.
Last year, developers approached KU in hopes it would serve as a nonprofit partner in the project and act as owner of the hotel, which the developers would run for a fee.
Kelly said developers have had discussions with KU officials on that scheme, but no decision has been made.
Though there is no timeline for the project, Kelly said, Lt. Gov. Gary Sherrer would like to see the resort come to fruition. But developers must get the local financial support, which could take several months to put together, before moving forward.
"If at the end of six or seven months, there isn't any progress, then it could start to get kind of problematic," Kelly said.
Mashburn and Carr did not return phone calls Wednesday.
-- Staff writer Joy Ludwig can be reached at 832-7144.