Overland Park to consider issuing $55M in STAR bonds for Bluhawk sports arena

Bluhawk STAR bonds

Overland Park will consider issuing state-approved STAR bonds to help with the construction of an $85 million multi-sport complex at Bluhawk. Digital rendering via Overland Park city documents.

Overland Park may soon issue roughly $55 million worth of STAR bonds to help construct a multi-sport complex at the Bluhawk  development in the southern portion of the city.

Driving the news: On Wednesday, the Overland Park City Council’s Finance, Administration and Economic Development Committee met to discuss issuing state-approved STAR bonds for the construction of the $85 million Bluhawk Sports Park near 159th Street and U.S. 69 Highway.

  • Under Kansas’s STAR bond statute, cities can issue the bonds for projects with commercial, entertainment or tourism value deemed to be a “statewide and regional destination” once completed.
  • The debt raised by the bonds is then supposed to be paid back over a set period of time using sales tax generated by the development.

The details: With the help of STAR bonds, developers Price Brothers Management Co. plans to construct a 435,000-square-foot multi-sport complex in two phases.

  • Phase 1 of the project includes the construction of 240,000 square feet of the complex, which will have an ice rink, four basketball courts, fitness center, training center, physical therapy and other related amenities, like food services and locker rooms.
  • By the completion of its second phase, the complex is set to add extra ice rink space and four additional basketball courts, which can be converted into volleyball and pickleball courts.
  • The initial steps of construction for the complex have begun, including gathering of construction materials and site preparation.

Background: In June 2021, the Overland Park City Council approved a STAR Bond Project plan, which included the multi-sport athletic facility and 670,000 square feet of retail, restaurant and other type of commercial uses.

A total of eight basketball courts are planned to be built at the Bluhawk multi-sport complex. Digital rendering via Overland Park city documents.

Zooming out: The use of STAR bonds to fund various projects around the state has been controversial.

  • A state audit conducted last year concluded that only three of 16 projects funded with STAR bond proceeds met the statute’s goal of creating “tourist attractions” that draw in out-of-state visitors.
  • Some of the audit’s most scathing judgements were leveled at the Prairiefire development in Overland Park, which was funded in part by $65 million in STAR bonds.
  • The audit projected that it could take until next century before revenue generated from the Prairiefire development recoups the sales tax diverted for its construction.

What’s next for the Bluhawk development?

Overland Park deputy city manager Kristy Stallings said several STAR bond financing action items related to the Bluhawk project are expected to presented to the city council for its consideration on Oct. 3.

  • Construction of the complex is anticipated to begin as soon as the bond ordinances are passed, lasting throughout 2023 and into 2024, according to Stallings.
  • When there is enough additional retail development to support a second series of bonds,  the second phase of the project will begin.