KC Development Plan Passes

The Kansas City Wizards path to a soccer-specific stadium of their own just got a little smoother. The infamous $949 million Three Trails redevelopment plan for the run-down Bannister Mall area was approved unanimously by the Kansas City Council on Thursday.
In a stunning turn of events, KC Mayor Mark Funkhouser dropped his objections to the project's use of a special tax incentive called super tax increment financing, and fully backed the development. Last-minute negotiations apparently changed Funkhouser's mind. "Thank you for working with me to get us to a position where I am able to support this and still feel in good conscience," he said. "What we're doing in the long term is good for Kansas City as a whole."

The developer, Lane4 Property Group, wants to build an 18,500-seat soccer stadium for the Wizards, a 12-field tournament soccer complex, a 250-room hotel, up to 1.1 million square feet of retail, and up to 1.7 million square feet of office space.

"We are convinced this will turn our area around," said Councilman John Sharp, whose district includes the closed Bannister Mall.

"Voting yes makes real a field of dreams - soccer dreams," said Councilwoman Cathy Jolly, who also represents the area. "It is our time, and I couldn't be more pleased.

The project will require $273 million in tax incentives and other assistance from the city and state, about 29% of the eventual cost. The most heavily subsidized part of the project is the first phase - the construction of the soccer stadium, amateur soccer complex and the hotel.

The Wizards want the city to own the facility, but the team would be responsible for maintenance, capital repairs and any operating deficits.

"It's an incredibly exciting day," said Wizards executive vice president Greg Cotton. "This is the culmination, for some of us, of a four-year ordeal. From the time Lamar Hunt put the team up for sale until just 15 minutes ago, the future of the team in Kansas City was in doubt. This is a huge step for not only Kansas City and the fans of the Wizards, but the fans of Major League Soccer who didn't want to see a great soccer city like Kansas City lose its team."

"We need to move forward. We need to get into the stadium in the spring of 2010, so we need to start as soon as possible," said Wizards president Robb Heineman. "We can't physically get everything going until probably by Jan. 31. We still have to do a pretty large demolition project before we can start digging. But our intent would be to start digging the stadium sometime in the September time frame."

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