Archive for Thursday, August 23, 2001

A last resort

August 23, 2001


Plans for a resort at Clinton Lake are on their last legs.

It appears that this isn't the right time or the right plan for a resort at Clinton Lake.

Even before the gates were closed on Clinton Dam, long-range plans have called for some type of resort at the lake. After the Kansas Legislature passed a law that would make such a project possible on state park land, including Clinton Lake State Park, much attention was focused on the possibility of constructing such a resort here.

A developer was selected to pursue the opportunity, but the plan has been stalled for months. The Kansas Department of Commerce and Housing now is forcing the issue by setting an Oct. 1 deadline for the developer to secure the necessary financing to move forward on the project. Barring an unexpected influx of money, that state edict will spell the end of the project.

This is a difficult dream for supporters of the resort to abandon. Proponents for a lakeside resort said the plan offered many opportunities. The combined hotel and conference center would fill a niche that currently isn't available in Lawrence for business and university functions. It would not provide room for large conventions, but it would be an ideal spot for small or mid-sized retreats or seminars. In addition to the business potential, a resort also would offer an opportunity for non-campers to have better access to the lake and its natural surroundings.

The problem, as it usually is, has been funding. Developers needed the convention center to make the adjacent hotel economically feasible. But profits from the hotel wouldn't be enough to cover the cost of building or operating the convention center. The only way to make the plan pencil out was to basically find someone to donate more than $3 million for the convention center. So far, even though some people think the Clinton resort would be a good thing, it apparently isn't sufficiently "good" to attract anyone who would pay for the project.

The resort also would require something like $1.5 million in infrastructure improvements to extend city water and sewer service to the site. The city and county already are struggling to keep tax increases to a minimum; neither one has an extra $1.5 million lying around to contribute to the resort project. Some of the cost of extending those utilities might be offset by allowing the extensions to feed new residential development, but how such development fits into the city's planning goals also could raise some concerns.

Hopefully, this will not be the last opportunity for a resort to be built at Clinton Lake. The current plan doesn't appear to be the right one, but it would be great if some future developer could make the dream of a Clinton Lake resort into a reality.

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