After a lengthy, emotional and wide-ranging debate, Wichita City Council members put off their decision about supporting the proposed Bowllagio development at Maize and Kellogg for one week.
The indecision followed presentations by Food Network chef Aaron Sanchez, who has proposed a unique Mexican restaurant at Bowllagio, and a representative with Nylo Hotels, which would add a 125- room boutique hotel to the site.
Several council members said they’d love to have Bowllagio in Wichita, but that they can’t support endorsing the use of $13 million in STAR bonds, a state tool that uses sales tax dollars to help fund development of major tourism draws. They worry that not enough analysis has been done to show the project won’t put other local bowling alleys out of business.
City officials and developers with Maize 54 LLC will meet over the next week to discuss the project more. If the council endorses the project next week, the plan would then move on to the state, where it would be analyzed to see if it is properly financed, whether it would draw enough tourism from at least 100 miles away and whether it qualifies for the state program.
Council members struggled with whether their vote would be simply setting boundaries for the taxing district that the state would then analyze or if their move would be seen as a formal endorsement, as some city officials have suggested.
“I don’t find the facility of Bowllagio to be unique enough to justify public financing,” Gray said, after saying how much he likes the development concept.
He suggested that developers get more market study to prove the project can work, won’t hurt other businesses and qualifies for STAR bonds.
Council member Sue Schlapp said she loves the project but struggles with the idea of supporting it because there are too many unknowns.
But, she said: “I truly hope it’s going to be here.”
Later she said: “I’m not saying I’m for it; I’m not saying I’m against it.”
Vice Mayor Jeff Longwell said the project could generate new tax dollars and be a major attraction in Wichita.
He said the city could forward it to the state and still have plenty of chances to block public funding. He said the city still would have time to see economic analysis that would show whether the project would put other businesses at risk.
Longwell said he’d be the first to “kill it” if studies show the project would hurt other businesses.