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Archive for Wednesday, October 18, 2006

KCK water park developer expands project’s hotel rooms

October 18, 2006

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— A proposal from a water park developer would double the number of hotel rooms in Wyandotte County.

Schlitterbahn Waterworks of New Braunfels, Texas, is planning to build a $1.2 billion water park and resort near the already booming Kansas Speedway and Village West development in western Wyandotte County.

Initially, Schlitterbahn said it would build 450 lodging units and later boosted the estimate to 650.

Then Monday, a Schlitterbahn official told The Kansas City Star that it would need 1,800 lodging units. Currently, the county has 1,360 hotel rooms, up from 617 in 2001 when the Kansas Speedway opened, county tourism officials said.

"There weren't enough rooms in the market," said Jeff Henry, an owner of the family-operated water park business. "We weren't going to be able to sleep our guests very easily, so we corrected it.

"It's a huge change."

Bridgette Jobe, head of the county's Convention and Visitors Bureau, said the added rooms would give the county the opportunity to go after conventions, meetings, reunions and student travel.

She noted Village West is attracting 10 million to 12 million visitors every year to the county, which once suffered from a dearth of retail offerings.

"Who would've imagined that we'd be talking about doubling our rooms?" Jobe said. "It just goes to show me that we are a major destination."

Construction could begin as early as spring on the water park and resort project. Its budget has grown to $1.2 billion from an initial estimate of $412 million.

The accommodations will include hotel rooms, "condotel" units, cabins with kitchens and "treehauses," elevated lodgings designed to look as if they rest in trees.

An agreement between Schlitterbahn and the county's Unified Government calls for issuing up to $225 million in sales-tax revenue bonds, which are repaid using sales taxes generated at the development.

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