Some Thoughts on Heartland Park

Quite a few folks have contacted me regarding Heartland Park. I thought I’d take a moment and share some of my thoughts and a few facts I’ve been given by the staff at the City.

To begin with, this is a bad situation plain and simple. It was a bad deal when we made it in the 80’s and it still a bad deal more than 20 years later. Our primary goal here is to take a bad situation and try to make it less impactful to our city.

Here are some of the facts as I understand them:

  • The Reversionary Interest clause at the root of this issue was created in 1988.
  • We still owe $10.6 million in outstanding bonds issued in 2003.
  • The 50/50 match to the STAR bonds (both the current and proposed future ones) is the responsibly of the track’s potential operators all of whom are aware of it.
  • Legally, there is no real option to deal with the current reversionary interest clause other than a buy out.
  • According to the Legislative Division of Post Audit, the economic impact of Heartland Park is about $53 million.

My opinion as of now, is that we should issue the bonds and take control of the park, and get it in the hands of someone who is willing and able to operate it.

First off, if the plan works the way the Department of Commerce, the public accounting firm of Douthett & Company, Legislative Post Audit, and the City finance team say it should, then we won’t need to continue diverting funds from the mill levy to cover it. We owe $10.6 million on it and this is a way to pay that off without the need to raise taxes. That’s extremely important at a time where every dollar counts to families.

Second is the economic impact. Heartland Park has the potential to become a major economic engine for the community if operated correctly. With the right team and events, it could become a major revenue producer in the City. We’ve already built the facility, why not put it to good use?

I know many folks are upset that we would be bailing out Jayhawk Racing, but I understand most of the money he would get would have to go pay off the 80 some odd other business (many of whom are local) that he still owes.

The City has posted quite a bit of additional information on their website I’d encourage anyone who would like to learn more to start there.

I don’t like this situation any more then the next guy, but if we’re going to break the patterns of our past that have held our community back for decades, we’re going to have to make tough, smart, educated decisions, and invest in our future for kayaking. Please post your comments and questions to my Facebook Page and let’s discuss.