UPDATED — Epic Sports, a Wichita-based team sporting goods supplier, is asking the city for a 90 percent 10-year tax abatement to help it purchase and remodel the former Coca-Cola plant at 3001 E. Harry.
Currently, Epic Sports has a 75,000-square-foot warehouse at 1730 S. Laura and an office at 400 S. Emporia. It would move both facilities to the 160,000-square-foot former Coca-Cola space for an almost $2.5 million expansion.
“I’m actually worried that Coca-Cola building may not be big enough,” says Epic Sports president Gary Proctor, who founded the company in 1998.
When he moved into the 75,000-square-foot current space, Proctor says, “We overflowed it in two years.”
He’s eyeing another building that could work for any future overflow.
Proctor says he’s also considering buildings in Oklahoma City and Hutchinson.
“We’ve got some real good opportunities in Oklahoma City,” he says. “They’re pretty aggressive right now.”
That’s not his first choice, though.
“I mean, we prefer to stay here.”
His request will go before the Wichita City Council on Tuesday.
City Council member James Clendenin, whose district the former Coca-Cola plant is in, is traveling and hasn’t had a chance to study the Epic Sports proposal yet. He’s looking forward to it, though.
“My ears always perk up, and I’m always very happy when people show a little bit of interest in southeast Wichita, and so I’m extremely interested to get more up to speed on this,” Clendenin says.
He says there’s been other interest in the Coca-Cola space, such as a plan to turn it into a work release center, that he has not necessarily been in favor of.
A growing business may be another matter, though.
“I’m very supportive of that,” he says. “That excites me.”
Proctor says he hopes to hear within a week or two if the abatement is approved.
“We’ve got to make a decision,” he says. “It takes a while to get things moved. That’s actually cutting it to the wire.”
Proctor thinks the abatement would be a win-win for his company and the city.
“The thing that we have that is probably a rarity in Wichita is that none of the jobs that we create are taking from anybody else,” he says.
Proctor says most of his products come from out of state and are shipped out of state.
“We absolutely have no negative impact on Kansas.”
He says his company’s average payroll is $45,000 for about 45 employees. That includes a top salary of $130,000 and low-end salaries of $9 an hour.
“We are providing higher-paying jobs than the majority of companies in the industry,” Proctor says.
He’s already hiring some new employees now, but if the move into the Coca-Cola space happens, Proctor says he’ll hire another 70 people over the next five years.
Epic Sports has had a 40 percent growth rate for each of the last four years, he says.
“We don’t see that stopping for probably another five or six years at least,” Proctor says. “We are the perfect candidate for abatement because … we absolutely take nothing from the city and give everything.”