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Archive for Sunday, November 9, 2008

Sports hall of fame move proposed

November 9, 2008

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— Businessman Bill Koch is asking the city to lease the Wichita Boathouse back to him so he can offer it as a home for the Kansas Sports Hall of Fame.

Koch had essentially given the Boathouse, a landmark on the Arkansas River in Wichita, to the city but said in a letter sent to city leaders and the Wichita Eagle on Friday that the city has not taken care of the building.

He's proposing that the city give him a 99-year lease for $1 a year. He would then allow the financially struggling Hall of Fame to move into the building for free.

The letter from Koch's Wichita lawyer, Harry Najim, said the city has allowed the Boathouse to fall "into a shameful state of disrepair" since it was closed in 2004 for the WaterWalk renovation project.

The letter suggests the city restore utilities, renovate the building and grant the 99-year lease to Koch, who was inducted into the Sports Hall of Fame in 2004 in recognition of his sailing career, which included a 1992 win of the America's Cup.

"I think that the City Council should very seriously consider this proposal because it would bring life back to that area again," Najim said.

The fate of the Boathouse has been divisive since WaterWalk developers first suggested tearing it down to make room for a corporate headquarters for Value Place, an extended-stay hotel company owned by WaterWalk partner Jack DeBoer.

The idea was shelved about two years ago after supporters launched a "Save the Boathouse" campaign.

The Hall of Fame, which displays state-owned sports memorabilia, is interested in Koch's suggestion but still hopes to stay in its current home if it can afford it, said board member Bob Hanson.

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