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wyandotte County Progress

Grand opening of Hollywood Casino highlights a decade of booming growth in western Wyandotte County Jobs, Retail, Real Estate & More Inside


Publication of the February 1, 2012




2 Wyandotte County

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2012 3

Caroline Boyer/staff Tami Stalcup, Kansas City, Kan., gets ready to spin the ball on a roulette wheel during the dealer class run by the Hollywood Casino at Kansas Speedway.

Casino boosting employment opportunities By Caroline Boyer


ami Stalcup of Kansas City, Kan., is a selfdescribed casino lover — a regular visitor to Las Vegas ever since she turned 21. So when she heard the Hollywood Casino at the Kansas Speedway was going to train potential dealers, the hairstylist and rental property owner decided she would try her hand at the job. “I love the excitement of the casino, the lights, the action, the people,” she said. She is only looking to get a part-time dealer position, but Stalcup is looking forward to the other ways the casino will benefit her community. “Being a businesswoman in Wyandotte County, for my investments and my rental properties, I’ve already seen it here in just my (dealer class) teammates. They’re moving into the Wyandotte County area,” she said. “So that’s going to bring people for the restaurants, for the shows; they’re going to grocery shop here. And they’re going to rent my houses.” It’s not just the dealers who are excited — the casino will bring with it 1,000 full-time positions, with food and beverage, security and surveillance and accounting/finance, all offering health care and benefits. The casino began hiring these employees in late 2011 and put them through three weeks of orientation in January. The dealer school was perhaps the first indication of how much these jobs would benefit the area. The casino decided to run a free, nine-week dealer training school from October through December. It had a career fair for dealers in August and took applications for about four months leading up to the school. Al Thompson, table games manager, said there were 650 applicants for the school. The list of initial

applicants was pared down to 183 using math tests, dexterity tests and panel interviews. The class size was further cut when about 63 of the applicants decided being a table games dealer wasn’t for them, but even those were funneled to other departments as candidates for other openings at the casino. “If you were going to be picked out of 600 people, you obviously shine at something, so we wanted to make sure that we capitalized on that,” Thompson said. “We had these candidates that were ready for a job, we just put them in the right spot.” The school ran four hours a day, five days a week, teaching each student at least seven games. Students

at three different times each day — 7:30 a.m., 12:30 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. — to accommodate for the participants’ schedules. The jobs also have drawn a diverse crowd, in part due to the economyThe dealer school, Thompson said, drew everyone from a motivational speaker to those who previously have never worked. Given the number of dealer applicants, it’s clear the casino jobs are in demand. In addition to the new dealers, Thompson said he hopes to give about half the positions to dealers with experience, and he has had about 700 experienced dealer applicants from every existing casino in the Kansas City metro, as well as Las Vegas, California and other areas across the country. “That the kind of buzz the Hollywood Casino is generating,” he said. The casino offered two job fairs in 2011, one at the Overland Park Sheraton on Oct. 15 — which drew 800 people — and another at Kansas City Kansas Community College on Dec. 6, which garnered more job-seekers. It’s unclear how many of the 1,000 casino jobs will go to Wyandotte County residents; just 20 of the dealer school participants live in the county. Jeff Hilty, another dealer school participant from Kansas City, Kan., said he was thankful for the job and career opportunities the casino presented. Currently employed at a fitness center, Hilty had only been to a casino twice in his life, but his interest in being a dealer grew when he learned of the ability to advance his career. “My goal is to get on the floor, deal full-time, show them what I have, what I can do, what I’m capable of, and hopefully move up to a supervisor position,” he said. “… Right now, the job I’m in is not getting me ahead; this job will.”

If you were going to be picked out of 600 people, you obviously shine at something, so we wanted to make sure that we capitalized on that. We had these candidates that were ready for a job, we just put them in the right spot. —Al Thompson were not paid — though Thompson noted similar classes in Las Vegas actually charge participants $2,000 or more. And not all participants were guaranteed a job at the casino, though Thompson said he thought all would be offered a position. “It’s a big commitment up front, it really is… for a backend, potential pay off of a full-time gig as a dealer, which in this market can pay upwards of $40,000 to $45,000 a year, with no college, no experience; just the nine weeks of training is all we ask,” he said. While the training is a big time commitment, Thompson said about half of those in the dealer school were otherwise employed; classes are offered

4 Wyandotte County

Office park construction expected to have major economic impact By Sara Shepherd


rea business leaders are slavering over the economic boon that Cerner’s planned office park is expected to provide for Village West and the surrounding area. More than 4,000 new employees — plus their families and visitors — could be dining, shopping, visiting attractions and settling into houses or apartments nearby. The campus also is hoped to spur spin-off development, both office and residential, along connecting corridors. “We plan to leverage the thriving activity in western Wyandotte County to positively impact the health of the communities around us, and we look forward to the construction of our new campus,” Cerner vice-chairman and co-founder Cliff Illig said in a Unified Government press release last spring, when Cerner finalized acquisition of the property just south of Great Wolf Lodge.

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Plans call for building two ninestory office towers on the roughly 15-acre site. Construction on the first office tower was initially expected to begin in late 2011 but was pushed back to 2012 while Cerner awaited various agency approvals, company spokeswoman Kelli Christman said. That tower is scheduled to open by early 2013 and will house 1,250 associates, Christman said. A startdate for construction on the second tower has not been determined. The towers will be connected by a common ground-floor level, and employees will share a cafeteria, fitness center and other amenities. Design-wise, the towers will hearken to the company’s medical side. “The exterior design of each tower is based on a digitized image of human DNA, which we think will be a very appropriate and interesting representation of Cerner’s roots,”

The planned Cerner office park.

Christman said. The Cerner office complex is part of a $414 million development plan that also included Livestrong Sporting Park, which opened in June 2011. The development’s funding relies in part on STAR bonds and state tax credits. The Cerner campus will directly create 4,000 new jobs with an average annual salary of $54,000, according to the Unified Government. An additional 1,888 indirect jobs are projected to be created in conjunction with the complex. Cerner executives also have agreed to work with Wyandotte County school districts to launch a “career pipeline” with curriculum and internships to help train high school students for possible jobs with the company, according to the Unified Government. Cindy Cash, president of the Kansas City Kansas Area Chamber of Commerce, emphasized that Cerner’s 4,000 jobs would be all new positions rather than current employees moving in from other area cities. “These are new jobs that Cerner is creating in their business model,” Cash said. “They plan to grow, and we’re happy to help them.” Cash said she anticipated the project to spark new housing development, particularly multifamily, and help the real estate market for existing homes. “Cerner is very progressive — they hire the best and the brightest,” Cash said. “We hope that some of

those folks, if they’re not already from Wyandotte County, that they would consider moving to Wyandotte County.” The planned Cerner complex would be Kansas City’s first large office project on Interstate 435, Cash said. It is hoped to promote additional business development along adjacent corridors. Shawnee, just south of the county line, also hopes to capitalize on spinoff development. In a November meeting between the Shawnee City Council and Planning Commission deputy planning director Doug Allmon said the city would be eyeing opportunities for new multifamily housing developments. Several apartment or townhome projects have been approved for several years but have been waiting to begin construction. The city also has reached out to developers, letting them know about nearby employment centers and projects including the planned Cerner office park. “I think they were surprised to know how much opportunity there was to capture those residents,” Allmon said. “We aren’t just focusing on Johnson County.” Currently, about 5,400 of Cerner’s 8,000 global employees are based in the Kansas City area, making them one of the region’s largest employers, according to the company’s website. The company has created more than 3,300 new jobs in the area since 2000.


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Despite down year, real estate brokers see bright future for home construction By Elvyn Jones 2011 was a bleak year for the Wyandotte County real estate market in general and new home construction in particular. “We haven’t picked up in that market yet. Our new home construction is still pretty slow,” said Janice Lindberg, managing broker for Re/Max in Bonner Springs. Statistics bear out Lindberg’s words. For the first 11 months of 2011, Wyandotte County Unified Government issued 56 permits for construction of single-family homes, said Mike Grimm, research manager for Unified Government. He did not anticipate that number changing much when permits for December, typically a slow month, were added. It appears the county will have its lowest number of housing starts in 2011 since 1964, or as far back as county records go, Grimm said. Lindberg and Peggy Puhl, broker for Reece and Nichols of Kansas City, Kan., both said they have seen recent signs of a thaw in the single-family home market and are hopeful spring will see renewed interest in new construction. As for the disappointing 2011, they cited several reasons for the low number of housing starts. Despite low interest rates, the home lending market remains tight, they said. There was a large inventory of new homes on the market when the recession struck in 2008 and from the foreclosure crisis that followed. But Lindberg and Puhl said the inventory glut has stabilized. “We’re still a little bit heavy on the listing end,” Lindberg said. “We’ve managed to move some off the market, so it’s starting to balance out a little bit.” Puhl said investors snapped up many foreclosed homes, helping to reduce inventory. And she said developers were not adding to the inventory with speculative homes, which weren’t being built in the current lending environment. The No. 1 factor for the continued slump, Puhl said, was consumer confidence. Unemployment remains high and those employed don’t feel secure enough about their jobs to purchase new homes. But despite those factors and the bleak 2011 housing start figures, Lindberg and Puhl are confident Wyandotte County will see robust home construction in the foreseeable future. The reason? The employment picture that now has many reluctant to buy or build homes is going to get a boost in Wyandotte County. The boost includes the 1,000 jobs created with the opening of the Hollywood Casino and the 4,000 new jobs with an average annual salary of $54,000 coming by 2016 with the opening of Cerner Corporation’s $148 million medical information support complex. Although it will take a little patience to reap the benefits of the Cerner development, its eventual opening is most exciting because the 4,000 jobs will be newly created positions and not employees transferred from the company’s other metropolitan sites, Puhl said. That many new employees in Wyandotte County has to lift the housing market, especially with high gasoline prices encouraging short commutes, Puhl said. For 2012, Lindberg and Puhl point to benefits from continued commercial development associated with Livestrong Sporting Park, the Kansas Speedway, The Legends Outlets Kansas City and Village West. “The soccer field has certainly brought in a lot of activity,” Puhl said. “Walmart is going to put a Sam’s Club out there.” The two real estate brokers also think Wyandotte County’s agreement with Google Inc. to bring high-speed Internet to the county will be helpful in attracting new homebuyers to the county. “It’s another bonus to our area, because of the importance of the Internet world,” Lindberg said. “It’s another reason for homebuyers to look at us a little stronger.” On a cautionary note, Puhl said more information needed to be shared with homeowners on the cost and benefits of the high-speed connections. Both brokers and Grimm said the hot spot for new home construction in the county would continue to be west of Interstate 435, simply because that is where vacant land was available. The Piper area and Bonner Springs would be the primary benefactors of new subdivisions spurred by the casino, Cerner and other job-producing developments, they said. “Once there’s something visible (at the Cerner complex), I think it will happen quick,” Puhl said.

Number of single-family home permits issued in recent years 2012, Ç

2011, 56

(through November)*

2010, 96 2009, 101 2008, 136 2007, 333 2006, 466 2005, 494** * Lowest annual number on record dating to 1964 ** Highest number on county records Source, Unified Government research department.


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6 Wyandotte County

Mayor Reardon: Goals include more jobs, economic development By Elvyn Jones


or Joe Reardon, a year of accomplishments has enhanced a platform that will sustain the resurgence of Kansas City, Kan., and Wyandotte County. In the last year, it was announced Google Inc. and Unified Government would enter into a 10-year development agreement to make the city a test ground for the company’s ultra-fast Internet service, Livestrong Sporting Park opened as the home of the state’s only major league professional franchise, and the construction of the Hollywood Casino rushed toward an early 2012 completion that will bring 1,000 jobs to the county.

But Reardon, mayor of the Unified Government of Wyandotte County and Kansas City, Kan., points out those accomplishments following the successes of the past 15 years that started with the opening of the Kansas Speedway and subsequent development of the Legends Outlets Kansas City and Village West. Livestrong Park is part of a $400 million development agreement that had the health care information technology company Cerner Corp. break ground a new center in Village West. By 2016, Cerner will employ 4,000 people in Wyandotte County at an average annual salary of $54,000. “Over a period of 15 years, we’ve seen a resurgence in Wyandotte

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County and Kansas City, Kan.,” Reardon said. “We’re not done yet. We have built a very solid platform for going forward.” The Google venture was one reason for optimism, Reardon said. He said he frequently compared it to the building of Interstate 435 and the opening of the Missouri River Bridge in the 1980s. “There was a belief and expectation that would lead to development,” he said. “No one could have predicted that would be the Kansas Speedway. “It’s the same with the Google fiber optic. I’m of the belief it will lead to something as significant as the speedway. It may not be physical. It may be something invented or maybe a medical delivery breakthrough at KU where ultra high-speed delivery can deliver treatment to patients in their homes in a way that’s never been done before.” The 4,000 jobs Cerner will bring will be new positions that don’t transfer Cerner employees from other locations. Reardon said Cerner would boost housing in Wyandotte County and elsewhere in the area as those new employees started their jobs and looked for homes. “Those 4,000 jobs are a lasting benefit that stretches well beyond Wyandotte County,” he said. “That is an amazing pipeline of opportunity to allow us to continue to grow and to thrive.” The challenge for Wyandotte County and Kansas City, Kan., is to build on the momentum of the Google agreement and Cerner facility to attract more knowledge-based, information technology jobs, Reardon said. “One challenge for us is to assure young people coming up in the education system can compete for knowledge-based jobs.” Unified Government can help that effort by continuing to improve the tax base that supports schools, Reardon said. Village West development currently pays $11

million in property taxes annually and the sales taxes raised there are on track to retire the STAR bonds that helped finance the development in 2017, he said. “One of our goals is new revenue to further reduce the property tax rate,” he said. “That’s a longtime goal of Unified Government. That would certainly help to attract new residents.” Unified Government has also encouraged internships within its departments and among its partners as a way to locally develop more knowledge-based professionals. “We’re working now to really join Unified Government and the business community to provide real-world experience through internships,” he said. “Cerner has Cerner scholars with 10 to 12 high school interns working with Cerner professionals on realworld problems.” There was one other positive from 2011, Reardon said. The U.S. Census reported last summer that Wyandotte County’s 2010 population was 157,505. That was a mere 0.2 percent dip from the 2000 census and arrested steady declines that have shrunk the county’s population from the 188,845 recorded in the 1970 census. “It was good to see the population stabilize,” Reardon said. “That’s been a goal of ours for years. We’ve been bleeding population loss.” It was just more evidence of the resurgence that has changed the perception of Kansas City, Kan., and Wyandotte County within the county and the region. “We sit truly at the table in this region as part of how the metropolitan area and the regions moves forward,” he said. “That should be a point of pride in our residents.”


2012 7

Health care industry expects more growth in Wyandotte County By Sara Shepherd


ospitals continue to play a major role in Wyandotte County, both in its skyline and crucial services to residents. In the past year, Kansas University Hospital completed a major construction project and also merged with Kansas City Cancer Center, which expanded the hospital’s presence across the metropolitan area. Providence Medical Center, its facilities in order, has adopted a number of improvements to improve care and patient satisfaction. Providence has been providing care to Wyandotte County residents since the early 1900s, said Randy Nyp, Providence’s president and CEO. Providence constructed its existing hospital, 8929 Parallel Parkway, in 1976. “We’ve been a supporter of Wyandotte County from the beginning and continue to be an important employer as well as a health care provider in the community,” Nyp said. Nyp said hospital leaders were excited about the growth in western Wyandotte County and hoped to be involved with development. He said Providence was the provider of choice for the Legends Outlets Kansas City and Village West and had several sponsorships there. “We have a major presence there,” Nyp said. Over the past year, Providence, prompted by concerns about waittimes, retooled its emergency room procedures. Nyp said the changes, implemented in October, reduced overall waiting times by 40 minutes. The hospital also put in place a new patient-satisfaction program, won a number of awards and recruited a number of specialty physicians, including three cardiologists. Nyp added that, as an accredited chest pain center, Providence has been certified to take patients with active heart attacks from the field — even in outlying counties — and deliver them to the emergency room in a timely fashion, with appropriate care the whole way. Providence Care Basehor, the newest physician practice in the Providence Care network, began serving the Basehor area in August. In the area of oncology, Providence aims to grow its program through services provided by various departments. And last fall, in partnership with the Providence Ball YMCA, began offering a monthly cancer support group for Wyandotte County patients and their families who face the physical and emotional challenges of living with cancer. “It’s not big-building projects, it’s more relationship-building with patients, physicians and engaging our employees to lead the way,” Nyp said. At KU Hospital, the biggest projects in the past year have involved bricks and mortar. Last summer, the hospital opened the University of Kansas Physicians Medical Office Building, an $85 million, 209,000-square-foot project on the hospital’s campus, 3901 Rainbow Blvd. Jill Chadwick, hospital spokeswoman, said the building has 220 exam rooms and houses six different specialties or services, plus the University of Kansas Physicians Orthopedic and Sports Medicine Clinics. Sports medicine’s $12 million new home includes clinics for reconstructive surgery, fracture care and joint management, Chadwick said. The new office building also has a 600-space parking garage right across the street, where a walkway enables visitors to come and go without ever facing the elements — an addition met with many open arms. “Anybody who’s come to the hospital here has always complained about the parking,” Chadwick said. Also last summer, KU Hospital merged with the Kansas City Cancer Center and acquired 12 outpatient facilities, 216 cancer clinical trials and 52 hematologists, oncologists and radiation oncologists metrowide, Chadwick said. The merger was good timing, she added, as KU Hospital continues to work toward its National Cancer Institute designation. Chadwick said the hospital was nationally ranked in six categories by U.S. News and World Report, notched a number of other awards and continued increasing transplant operations — now counting 943 liver

transplants, 103 kidney transplants and nine kidneypancreas transplants. “The University of Kansas Hospital is where I would want a loved one to go if sick, because our outcomes are so strong,” Chadwick said. “Last year we treated patients with more severe illnesses and injuries than ever before, and we saved more lives than ever before.” In the future, Chadwick said, KU Hospital plans to expand its Center for Advanced Heart Care and to add hospital operating rooms. “These expansions will help solve some capacity issues we’re immediately facing as the need for our services continues to grow,” she said.

8 Wyandotte County


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10 Wyandotte County

Google Fiber inspiring creative thinking, regional union By Laura Herring


s Google and the Unified Government of Wyandotte County and Kansas City, Kan., work together to install the new, ultra-highspeed Google Fiber network, those who will be using the network the most are still brainstorming how best to utilize the new opportunity. “So many aspects of (the new network) are still in the planning stages as far as utilization, but really what it comes down to is that everyone is excited for this opportunity,” said Edwin Birch, a spokesman for the Unified Government. To take full advantage of the new service, which is on track to be fully deployed in spring 2012, according to Birch, the project is really being approached as a regional opportunity on both sides of the state line. “I think Mayor (Joe) Reardon has said it a million times: The state line may run through Kansas City but the

Since the announcement that Google Fiber was coming to Kansas City, we’ve had more and more site selection consultants asking about our region. —KCADC President Bob Marcusse daily lives of our citizens cross that line all the time,” he said. “Working together on this can only enhance it.” Embracing the idea of working together as a region, Kansas City, Kan., Mayor Joe Reardon and Kansas City, Mo., Mayor Sly James have put together a bistate innovations team to get input from interest groups in both communities. The team has representatives from the health field, arts and culture and local entrepreneurs, to name a few. “We have to keep everyone involved in this project at every step if we want it to be a success,” Birch said. Beyond the regional brainstorming

surrounding the project, Birch said the UG also was hopeful implementation of the new network would help them provide more efficient online services to residents of Wyandotte County and Kansas City, Kan. “Right now we don’t have a lot of online services beyond paying utility bills, and that’s been something we’ve wanted to improve for a long time now,” Birch said. “We’re hopeful that we can improve that even faster once we get the fiber up and running.” An Educated Approach In addition to providing free Internet fiber to government buildings, Google will be connecting public schools in Wyandotte County, as well. For the Kansas City, Kan. Public Schools, Google Fiber will allow for the expansion of technology initiatives in their schools. “We already have a robust infrastructure for personal technology in our high schools and middle, especially with our laptop program in the past five years, but hopefully with the new offerings from Google, we’ll be able to extend that to our elementary schools,” said David Smith, the school district’s chief of staff. Smith also sees the network

helping with student/staff communication, especially beyond the walls of school buildings. “What’s really exciting is that our students will now have access to high-speed Internet in their homes and not just at school,” he said. “It’s difficult to predict right now how things will work out but we can see the possibility of students being able to get help at home in real-time and the opportunity for students to work together virtually, something that we’ll surely see more of as the 21st century progresses.” Making the region more attractive For the Kansas City Area Development Council, Google’s presence in the greater Kansas City region can only help make the area more attractive to company site selectors. “Since the announcement that Google Fiber was coming to Kansas City, we’ve had more and more site selection consultants asking about our region,” said KCADC President Bob Marcusse. “Clearly, Kansas City is beginning to stand out like never before.” Marcusse couldn’t say if any companies had already committed to building in the Kansas City region since the announcement but did note certain types of companies could definitely benefit from the new network more than others. “Anyone moving large amounts of data is going to be very interested in this opportunity,” he said. “That could be anyone in mutual funds, any large shopping center, anything like that. Massive amounts of data are handled in transactions these days and everyone wants to be able to transfer that data as quickly as possible.” Companies already located in the region will also benefit from the fiber, Marcusse said, noting, “Everything it touches will be elevated.”

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2012 11

Photo-Pat Connor

Soccer team soars in new stadium By Chris Wristen


hen Sporting Kansas City opened Livestrong Sporting Park on June 9, 2011, almost everything was perfect. There was hype surrounding the internationally recognized name thanks to a partnership with cyclist Lance Armstrong’s Livestrong Foundation. There was intrigue as fans waited to catch their first glimpse inside the brand-new, state-of-the-art soccer stadium. The 18,467-seat venue was sold out, and additional standingroom-only tickets were going fast. Yes, it was almost perfect. The only problem was that the team wasn’t winning. Sporting KC was 1-6-3 during a season-opening 10-game road swing. If the club didn’t start winning, it might risk spoiling all of the early goodwill surrounding its new stadium. From the moment Livestrong Sporting Park opened, Sporting Kansas City’s season turned around. It completed a remarkable worst-to-first run to the Eastern Conference regularseason title and secured home-field advantage in the playoffs. Ultimately, the dream season didn’t quite have a storybook ending. Sporting KC lost to the Houston Dynamo 2-0 in the Eastern Conference Championship and missed playing for the MLS Cup by one game. All in all, Sporting KC manager Peter Vermes said he was pleased with the debut year for Livestrong Sporting Park as it emerged as one of the best home-field advantages in Major League Soccer. “When you’re out there and the place is full … record attendance, standing room only and the place is absolutely mad with excitement and passion … it’s a tremendous feeling not only as a player, but as an organization,” Vermes said. “When I’m out there I get goosebumps. I’d love it if I was to put on a jersey and go out on the field. I think you could run for

90 minutes at full speed and not get tired just based on the energy that’s in the stadium. “There’s no doubt that the stadium and the fans have been the 12th man this year. They’ve been huge for us. They helped us through some hard times. We’ve shown a lot of times some very entertaining soccer here, and I think we’ll continue to do that based on the energy that’s in this stadium.” Just how Sporting KC continues to thrive in the future is Vermes’ top concern now as preparations for the 2012 season continues. Meanwhile, 2012 also is expected to be another big year for Livestrong Sporting Park. Season tickets already are on sale for the 2012 Sporting KC season. In addition, the stadium will play host to the Men’s Olympic Qualifying Tournament semifinals and final on March 31 and April 2. A concert lineup has yet to be announced, but Livestrong Sporting Park played host to Farm Aid and the Buzz Beach Ball in 2011. Ultimately, the biggest plans for Livestrong Sporting Park in 2012 hinge on its permanent tenant — Sporting Kansas City — as it tries to build on a breakthrough season by making another run at the MLS Cup. Between having a solid home-field advantage and a young roster that gained significant experience in 2011, Vermes believes the groundwork is in place for a successful 2012. “A lot of guys have matured on our team and have really established themselves as the real nucleus of this team, and because of the ages you can see a lot of these guys being around for a long time — and that’s the exciting thing,” Vermes said. “I’m proud of the players, and I’m proud to be a part of this organization because I think it’s the best one in Major League Soccer and I think it has so much more to do in the future.”

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12 Wyandotte County

Large retailers find KCK region to their liking By Laura Herring


ymbiotic relationships are no longer just for living organisms, in Kansas City, Kan., they’re for retailers as well. Just beyond Legends Outlets Kansas City and the Village West area are several large retailers, including Walmart, Target and Kohl’s, that have no ties to the popular developments

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but have found success largely due to their proximity . “Anytime there’s an attraction that generates a lot of traffic, as the Legends does, every retailer in the area is going to benefit,” said Walter Clements, director of the Lewis White Real Estate Center at the Bloch School of Management at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. In addition to drawing shoppers and tourists from a wide radius, some from up to 200 miles away according to Clements, the Legends also provides a shopping pool with its employees and their families. “Stores like Walmart and Target will draw some of the same shoppers as the stores and attractions at the Legends, but most of their business and success in KCK is coming from the employees at those other locations,” he said. Echoing Clements is Cindy Cash, president and CEO of the Kansas City Kansas Area Chamber of Commerce. “The Legends is a great shopping experience; there’s no denying that,” Cash said, “But it’s these other retailers, Walmart and Target, etc., who help the permanent residents of this area because they provide the everyday needs we all have.” Cash calls the relationship between the two types of retailers “the best of both worlds” in regards to what they provide for the region. “Visitors come from all over to experience the Legends and the (Kansas) Speedway year-round and yet they also benefit from the big-box

stores too,” she said. “I mean how often have you left for vacation and realized you forgot to pack an essential and plan to just pick it up when you get there? That’s what Walmart and Target provide.” From her knowledge as both a resident of the area and her role with the chamber, Cash says the big-box retailers seem to be thriving in the region; especially given most are less than 5 years old. “When I’ve spoken with the manager of Walmart, he’s said that he and the company are very pleased with the store’s success,” she said. “I haven’t had the same conversation with the manager of Target but I can say that whenever I shop at either store they seem busy.” A Sam’s Club discount store is slated to open this fall at The Plaza at the Speedway, according to Mike Taylor, director of public relations for the Unified Government of Wyandotte County and Kansas City, Kan. The development also will include a gasoline station, Taylor said. The Plaza at the Speedway, which is home to Kohl’s and Walmart, does have retail space available according to Cash. “Stores like this keep a close eye on the sales volumes of all retailers in a region and want to be ahead of any potential demand for their goods,” Clements said. “With the new casino coming online and Cerner’s plans to expand in the area, I’d say that could really have these retailers excited about the area.”

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2012 13

T-Bones feasting on success heading into 10th year By Shawn Linenberger


ommunityAmerica Ballpark opened with a bang June 6, 2003, in the Kansas City T-Bones’ first home game. Kansas City lost, a thriller, 1-0, by inches. Left fielder Chad Ehrnsberger’s towering shot to left field would have been a two-run, walk-off home run. But the umpire deemed that the ball did not sail out of the park in fair territory. The shot was ruled to be just foul and the T-Bones eventually lost by a run. There have been exciting moments since then — some including soccer — as CommunityAmerica Ballpark and the T-Bones enter their 10th season of professional baseball. Several promotions are in the works for 2012, said T-Bones official Stan Duitsman, including the popular fireworks displays following Saturday home games, and select $1 beer Thursdays. “That is definitely one of the most popular ones,” Duitsman said, referring to discount beer nights. Jersey and fleece blanket giveaways again are planned, which have drawn big crowds in the past, Duitsman said. CommunityAmerica Ballpark was home to Major League Soccer’s Kansas City Wizards — now Sporting Kansas City — for three seasons, 200810. CommunityAmerica Ballpark went to an all-grass infield to better accommodate soccer, sans dirt near each base. Duitsman said shared occupancy didn’t necessarily bring out soccer fans to T-Bones games or baseball fans to Wizards games, but the stadium certainly was the place to be for MLS games those seasons. Sporting KC now plays down State Avenue in Village West at Livestrong Sporting Park. As for the 10th season of T-Bones baseball, Kansas City plays in the

American Association, a 14-team league that includes Lincoln, Neb., and Wichita teams. The move to the American Association from the Northern League allowed for more geographically local rivalries. In the Northern League, the closest opponent was Gary, Ind., which is about eight to nine hours away, Duitsman said. As a member of the Northern League, the T-Bones won a championship in 2008, taking the championship series from the Gary SouthShore Railcats, who were appearing in their fourth straight league championship series at the time. New this year will be interleague play of sorts with games against Canadian American League teams. In fact, the T-Bones open the season May 17 at home against the New Jersey Jackals. And again this year, various high school and collegiate teams are expected to play neutralsite games and tournaments at CommunityAmerica Ballpark. “The big focus is our 10th anniversary season, and we will be doing a number of things to celebrate that milestone,” Duitsman said.

14 Wyandotte County

Kansas Speedway is more than about racing By Shawn Linenberger


ansas Speedway has been able to shine in prime time, thanks to the addition of lights in 2011. The venue’s enhancement led to the first night race in the speedway’s 10 years of existence, the Kansas Lottery 98.9, part of the ARCA racing series. But the addition also has been beneficial beyond the racetrack. “The biggest thing is it allows us to have other events under the lights as opposed to making sure everything

is during the day,” said Kelly Hale, director of public relations with Kansas Speedway. The speedway has a handful of races each season, but again, it’s used for more than just racing, as roughly 200 other events take place at Kansas Speedway each year. Though the installation of lights was a major project at the track, more renovations are planned for 2012. A road course will be added and the track will be repaved for the first time. Hale described the road course as allowing for “basically the opportunity to turn right rather than always turning left.” With the repaving, there also will be some banking added to the track. It’s the first repaving of the 10-year old track, Hale said. Many tracks aren’t repaved for 20 or 30 years, but then, the extreme Kansas weather can have more of an effect on a track here than say, Florida. “There’s huge temperature differences in Kansas,” Hale said. “Here rather than Daytona Beach.” The repaving will be completed in time for this year’s October races, Hale said. Capacity at Kansas Speedway is 75,635. Race fans and those attending other events at the speedway will have another option for entertainment with the Hollywood Casino opening next door. “It gives our fans another opportunity of something to do while they’re here,” Hale said. “We’re working with the casino in being able to interchange each other during our race weekend.”

Kansas Speedway Size: 1.5-mile tri-oval suitable for all types of racing Banking: 15 degrees in the turns 10.4 degrees in the front stretch 5 degrees in the back stretch Track pavement width is 55 feet Seating Capacity: The track seats over 72,000. Parking: The facility can accommodate 35,000 vehicles. Event parking is free Contact: Kansas Speedway is open year-round from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. Tickets: Toll free at 866-460-7223


2012 15

Legends has big impact on local tax base By Melissa Treolo


fficials with the cities of Bonner Springs and Edwardsville say benefits they see through the cities’ proximity to the Village West area, which includes the Legends Outlets Kansas City and Kansas Speedway, boil down to the amount of funding each city receives as part of its portion of sales and use tax set by the county. Michael Webb, city administrator for the city of Edwardsville, said the city each year receives somewhere in the vicinity of $500,000 in county sales tax and $85,000-$90,000 in county use tax. Bonner Springs receives an even greater share than that. Tillie Laplante, the city’s finance director, said in 2011 the city received about $747,791 in county sales tax and $126,392 in use tax. Officials with both cities say the county taxes they receive are largely generated by the Legends, which constitutes the largest and most heavily frequented retail area in Wyandotte County. But there are other benefits, as well. Webb said the Legends shopping area, which opened in 2006 and continues to grow each year, had created opportunities for Edwardsville, Bonner Springs and the county as a whole that may not have been available otherwise. Take the new Hollywood Casino, for example. Through a revenue-sharing agreement that Bonner Springs Mayor Clausie Smith said was “one of the few that exists,” both cities each year will receive 0.75 percent of the total revenue generated by the casino. “Certainly, had the Legends and those things not been up there … I don’t know that the casino issue would have come up at all,” Webb said. “But without our proximity to what was there, I doubt we would have been in consideration” to share in the revenue. Another opportunity afforded to the city of Edwardsville through its proximity to the Village West area, Webb said, included the possibility of a new sewer system that would

Water park doubles in size By Melissa Treolo


he 2012 season will be the fourth for the Schlitterbahn Kansas City Waterpark, but it will be the first year visitors will get “the full Schlitterbahn experience,” Chris Ozimek says. After a “challenging” 2011 during which the project was delayed, in May Schlitterbahn will finally unveil an expansion that roughly doubles the size of the park and includes six new rides and attractions, said Ozimek, marketing director for the water park. “We’re anticipating an explosive year this year, because of the major expansion and because people were waiting for this,” Ozimek said. When the park opened in June 2009, officials said construction on a $750 million Schlitterbahn Vacation Village, including lodging, shopping and a river walk area surrounding the water park, was set to finish by the end of 2011. But he economic downturn in the time since has delayed that process, Ozimek said. Construction on the water park expansion, originally announced in advance of the 2011 season, lasted through the summer. And the retail and lodging developments, while still planned, are now likely years away, Ozimek said. “We’re trying to perfect the outdoor waterpark, which is our core product, what Schlitterbahn is known for,” Ozimek said. “All the other stuff is coming in the future.” Ozimek said the new expansion, to the west of the previously existing portion of the park, will allow visitors to fully experience the park’s signature feature: a “transportainment” river system that will allow people to circle the entire park while floating on inflatable tubes. The system, part of which existed in the original area of the park, flows through and connects many of the park’s rides and attractions. “You can float through the entire park and never get out of the water,” Ozimek said. Two parts of that system in the expanded area take their name from

Photo-The Kansas City Kansas Chamber of Commerce. Legends Outlets Kansas City, pictured, isn’t expanding the 88 acres it sits on anytime soon, says general manager Chuck Oglesby. But growth in the way of new name brand clothing outlets is expected for 2012.

connect at the Little Turkey Creek interceptor near the Chateau Avalon hotel in Village West — a preliminary design for the system is currently in the works. Still, Smith said the Legends was a mixed blessing. On the one hand, it brings in more revenue to the county. But on the other, he said, it prevents prospective developers from seeing Bonner Springs or Edwardsville as viable places to set up shop. “Basically, what we get are secondtier retailers,” Smith said, such as Walgreens and the Nuts and Bolts True Value hardware store, which

opened last year. He said a large department store like Kohl’s wasn’t going to come to Bonner Springs when a thriving premiere shopping center just down the highway offered a better location. But business is business, Smith said, and when the county sees benefits, its individual cities do, as well. “I’ll tell you, anything that’s good for Kansas City, Kan., or Edwardsville is good for Bonner Springs,” he said. “Meaning, anything that happens anywhere in the county is good for the whole county.”

local waterways: the King Kaw rapids, named after the Kansas River, and the Mighty Mo tube chute, which takes its name from the Missouri River. The expansion also includes a tower with three new waterslides and a surfing simulator, called the Boogie Bahn, in which visitors ride a body board on a thin sheet of water running across a padded surface. “We have it at all of our other parks, and it’s just huge,” Ozimek said of the Boogie Bahn. Park officials expect a big attendance boost this year as the expansion opens, Ozimek said. The company does not release exact attendance figures, but the number of visitors jumped by “tens of thousands” in 2011, he said, and numbers have grown in each year of the park’s operation. Many of those visitors have traveled a fair distance to the park, he said. About half have come from within an hour’s drive of the park, but about one quarter came from one to four hours away, while the remaining quarter came from a longer distance. “We’re new, but we’re already quite a draw from the distant markets, too,” Ozimek said.

Park officials still plan on a resort complex including 750,000 square feet of retail space and more than 1,000 lodging units that would include a hotel, cabins and “treehouse” units, he said. Also planned is a retractable roof that would open part of the park for use year-round. The struggling economy has helped delay those projects longer than the company had hoped, Ozimek said. No date is set for their completion. “All of that is years down the road,” Ozimek said. Original plans called for a Scheels sporting-goods store to be the anchor of the resort’s retail portion. Ozimek said the company had no update on whether that store was still in the works. “Our development team is still working on that,” Ozimek said. The park’s 2012 season will run from May 26 to Sept. 3, and single-day admission will be $36.99 for visitors between 12 and 54 years old or $27.99 for children up to 11 or people 55 or older. Children 2 years old or younger can enter for free. Parking is free, and families can bring coolers of food and drinks into the park, as well.

RESURGENCE 16 Wyandotte County

Kansas City T-Bones

The Legends

Nebraska Furniture Mart

Providence Medical Center


Kansas Speedway

Sporting KC

Cabela’s Great Wolf Lodge

Schlitterbahn Water Park


Cabela’s Great Wolf Lodge Kansas City T-Bones Nebraska Furniture Mart



Kansas Speedway


The Legends at Village West




Sporting KC/ Livestrong Park


Cerner Hollywood Casino


Hollywood Casino Google Fiber (projected)

Chateau Avalon


Cerner first building (projected)

Wyandotte County: winning back western Kansas City. Like some kind of glowing oasis on the Kansas plains stands Wyandotte County and the Village West area. Already home to everything from thrilling NASCAR racing to home furnishings to water parks, it’s now poised to become home to local health-care giant Cerner as well as a testing ground for world-class internet access.

In the next 24 months, thousands of new jobs will be created, we’ll see thousands of new visitors to the area, new homes will be built and other small businesses started as a result of the Wyandotte boom. Take a look inside for the deeper story behind this amazing local resurgence in western Kansas City.

2012 Wyandotte Progress Edition  

2012 Wyandotte Progress Edition for JW

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