LJWorld.com weblogs Town Talk
News of a downtown Lawrence hotel sale, and more on resort and casino talk
The idea of a resort at Clinton Lake, and the unanswered questions about the interest in a casino on land recently purchased by the Delaware Indian tribe in North Lawrence certainly have given those in the Lawrence hotel market something to think about.
But despite the tantalizing nature of those subjects, downtown Lawrence is still where the real action in the local lodging industry takes place.
Work has begun at Ninth and New Hampshire streets on a 91-room Marriott TownePlace extended-stay hotel, and people continue to wait to see what The Eldridge Hotel may do with the vacant lot immediately south of its Massachusetts Street building.
Now there is a new player in the downtown lodging market. San Antonio-based BC Lynd and partners have purchased the SpringHill Suites by Marriott in the former Riverfront Mall building at Sixth and New Hampshire streets.
Chuck Mackey, president of Overland Park-based Capital Management Inc., confirmed that his group sold the SpringHill Suites and five other hotel properties to a group managed by BC Lynd in a deal that closed last week.
I've got a call into BC Lynd officials to find out what, if anything, may change at the SpringHill Suites. Mackey said his understanding is that the hotel will continue to operate as a Marriott property. According to BC Lynd's Web site, it looks like the company has a strong relationship with Marriott.
Mackey also is the hotel operator behind the new Marriott TownePlace at Ninth and New Hampshire. But the recent deal with BC Lynd does not involve that property. And Mackey said the decision to sell the SpringHill Suites wasn't related to his decision to be part of the group constructing the new Marriott property down the street.
Instead, he said the sale represented a good opportunity, and did nothing to dampen his enthusiasm about the Lawrence market.
"We're still very optimistic, primarily because of downtown Lawrence and Lawrence itself," Mackey said.
The only other area property included in the recent sale was the Marriott hotel that Capital Management owned near Deer Creek in Johnson County, Mackey said. The other properties included two in New Mexico, one in Indiana, and one in Iowa.
As for the new SpringHill Suites operators, I'll provide more information on BC Lynd when I hear back from officials there. But based on its Web site, it looks like BC Lynd is a well-established owner of multi-family properties that is expanding into the hotel business.
••• Because I mentioned both the resort and casino talk, I'll provide you a couple of tidbits on those subjects.
I still haven't heard back from Dave Mashburn, the executive who is leading LodgeWell Resorts, the lone company that submitted a proposal to build a resort complex at Clinton Lake State Park.
But the Kansas City Business Journal did catch up with the Kansas City-area developer. The article didn't provide many details on the project, such as where in the park Mashburn is proposing to locate the resort. But Mashburn did talk about how he has a concept that integrates health care and hospitality that he would deploy at Clinton Lake. He didn't elaborate on the concept other than to say in it is in "the wellness sphere" and goes beyond the traditional spa concept.
I've also heard the Kansas Secretary of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism talk about how he would like to see a man-made whitewater rafting destination at the Clinton resort. My understanding is that there are some high-tech simulator devices that can give users a fun rafting experience without a full-blown whitewater stream. But there's no word yet on whether Mashburn's proposal includes that concept, either. The state is not releasing any details.
The Kansas City Business Journal article does note that Mashburn has a partner in the project, longtime area businessman Dave Owen. According to the article, it is the same Dave Owen who is a former Kansas lieutenant governor and who ran into significant legal problems in the 1990s.
The project will be an interesting one to watch, and I will continue to try to make contact with Mashburn. But I have talked to a few locals who do have questions about whether the resort proposal will gain traction with state officials, who must approve use of the park. The fact that only one proposal came in may indicate that other established resort developers had questions about what the market could support. Or it could mean that Mashburn — who is a veteran of the hotel and resort industry but is relatively new at leading his own resort development company — is the only one with the vision to see the unique possibilities.
On the North Lawrence land purchase by the Delaware Tribe of Indians, I'm still working to learn more information from the Bureau of Indian Affairs about the process of placing that land in trust.
One notion that is worth clearing up is that just because the land has been purchased by the Indian tribe does not mean that it is automatically considered "Indian land" in the eyes of the law. It must be put into federal trust before it is considered Indian land and can enjoy some of the tax benefits and exemptions from local codes that come with Indian land status.
Putting the land in trust is also a step that must happen before it could ever be eligible to house an Indian casino. As a reminder, the tribe has not said it has plans to locate a casino on the property. It explored locating a casino in the area about a decade ago. This time around, tribal officials have said they don't want to discuss what their plans might be regarding a casino. They've instead focused on a plan that involves housing, health care and child care to serve the Native American population.
I've talked to just enough people to know that putting this piece of North Lawrence property into trust is no slam dunk. As for all the requirements that must be met for a property to be put into trust, I'm learning that is the type of complex subject that makes a fellow want to go do advanced trigonometry to unwind.
But I hope to have an article on some of the basics in coming days.