DeSoto The phone call De Soto Mayor Dave Anderson is hoping for has yet to come, but he is still hopeful De Soto will be the future home of the Kansas City Wizards.
De Soto is one of three Johnson County cities the Hunt Sports Group and Major League Soccer are still considering as the home of the Kansas City Wizards.
De Soto, Gardner and Olathe were invited to submit follow-up proposals after six county cities submitted proposals in March for a site that would include a 20,000-seat stadium, 17 championship-level youth soccer fields and 30 to 50 acres for associated retail development. The project is said to have a price tag from $89 million to $125 million.
Anderson and De Soto City Administrator Pat Guilfoyle said when the expanded proposal was presented, MLS consultant Bobby Davidson said the city could expect to hear something May 1. But Anderson and Guilfoyle said they didn't take that to be a "hard deadline."
"My take is May 1 was a target date," Guilfoyle said. "Given the scope of this project, we understand sometimes that means on or about that date."
Anderson said the deadline came just after the NFL draft, which was likely to occupy Kansas City Chiefs and Wizards owner Lamar Hunt's attention.
Another reason for the delay could be a late requestthat the Kansas Legislature make sales tax revenue bonds, or STAR bonds, more applicable to the project, Anderson said. Current state law would allow cities to use STAR bonds to build a stadium, but once built it could not be leased to a team or other private entity.
To avoid a possible deal killer, Olathe city officials have asked the Legislature to modify STAR bond legislation so the winning city could lease the stadium to a professional team.
Sen. Karin Brownlee, who sits on the Senate Economic Development Committee considering the request, said committee members weren't receptive to the change.
The strength of De Soto's proposal is the presence of relatively cheap, flat land the complex would need, the availability of water for irrigation and the site's proximity to Lawrence, Anderson said. City officials particularly pitched the advantage of available land and the ability of a developer to be creative.
Although the exact location of De Soto's proposed site hasn't been identified, Anderson said it was west of the city and south of Kansas Highway 10. The area is near property Kansas University owns near or on the Sunflower Army Ammunition Plant that is to be for bioscience research park uses and an area that the plant's new owner, Sunflower Redevelopment LLC, has set aside for commercial development in the life sciences. The stadium complex would extend sewers and other infrastructure to those properties, Anderson said.
"For somebody to conclude that the ability to pull something of this complexity is going to rely on in-house expertise of some department is foolishness," Guilfoyle said. "To do this successfully is going to require a talented team and cooperation of the county and state.
"I think that we're still talking about this today shows that those in the selection process think the team we've assembled has demonstrated its ability to be successful."
- De Soto Explorer editor Elvyn Jones can be reached at 542-2747.