Archive for Thursday, August 5, 2004

Business booms at Village West

August 5, 2004

Like settlers blazing paths during a gold rush, developers have surged to the Village West entertainment and tourism district in western Wyandotte County, eager to stake their claim on prized land. And like a pioneer realizing the booty from bountiful ground, the Unified Government of Wyandotte County has reaped the rewards.

The Village West entertainment and tourism district is a 400-acre development located at the corners of Interstates 435 and 70. It is an ala carte development with retail megastores like Nebraska Furniture Mart and Cabela's, high-end resorts such as Chateau Avalon and the Great Wolf Lodge and, though not named specifically in legislation defining the Village West, the Kansas Speedway.

If the district is not the crown jewel of the county, it's at the very least one of its most prized treasures.

Unified Government project coordinator Denise Oakley said approximately 60 acres of Village West remain available for purchase and development. Build-out projections include an infusion of 4,000 new jobs and $450 million in annual retail sales.

While money generated from sales tax at Village West is being used to pay back bonded indebtedness for the project, the development has been a boon to the local economy regardless.

In 2003, the county received approximately $2.5 million in property tax revenue from the Village West; Unified Government officials project $5 million in property tax revenue once businesses planning to locate to the area are built.

Approximately 1,800 people receive their paychecks from businesses within the entertainment and tourism district; Oakley said more than 900 of those employees live in Wyandotte County.

And though development inside the district has been steady, it is by no means completed. Construction for several ventures including a 500,000 square-foot shopping area and 14-screen movie theater is slated to begin either late this summer or early fall.

Even a local church is catching the Village West fever: Oakley said representatives of a nearby church have inquired as to whether they could name their sanctuary after the Village West area.

Below is a wrap-up of the current and future tenants of Village West, according to Wyandotte County officials.

The Juggernauts:

Kansas Speedway, 400 Speedway Blvd.

While the 1,200 acres of the racetrack are not listed in the legislation that defines theVillage West district, Unified Government officials said the Speedway is as big a part of the district as anything else. The Speedway contains 64 suites, 80,000 seats and is able to seat more than 100,000 race fans when accounting for spectator space in the infield. The racetrack hosts two major races per year that draw more than 100,000 fans.

Cabela's, 10300 Cabela Dr.

Unified Government officials said the latest tourism information submitted by the state indicates the outdoor outfitter is the top tourist attraction in Kansas. Want proof?

The 190,000 square-foot-store drew more than two million people within the first six months it opened in 2002.

"It is not only a metro draw but regionally as well," Oakley said. "People come from 200, 300 miles away and more."

Nebraska Furniture Mart, 1601 Village West Pkwy.

There are stark contrasts between the clientele of Wyandotte County's top retail giants, Cabela's and Nebraska Furniture Mart. While one draws customers with hobbies steeped in the outdoors, the other specializes in items for cozier accommodations inside.

However, a tie that binds the two is the customer volume the stores have seen since opening. Although official tourism information wasn't available as of press time, county officials said the 700,000 square-foot-store has exceeded expectations.

"They've even had to hire more people than expected," Oakley said.

The store, which is roughly the equivalent in size to 12 football fields and features a 500,000 square foot showroom, offers furniture, flooring, appliances and electronics in addition to other items.

Great Wolf Lodge, 10401 Cabela Dr.

A 281-suite hotel that features an enclosed 40,000 square-foot water park is in the midst of its busiest time of the year.

Kansas City T-Bones, 1800 Village West Pkwy.

The independent minor league baseball team plays 45 games each season at CommunityAmerica Ballpark.

The ballpark seats between 4,600 and 4,700 fans but attendance numbers have routinely climbed above that mark this season. Additional room is available for approximately 1,500 fans in the outfield berm areas.

In 2003 -- the team's inaugural season since relocating from Duluth, Minn. -- more than 200,000 fans attended home games, an average of 4,500 fans per game.

New kid on the block: The Legends of Village West, a 700,000 square-foot open-air shopping center and entertainment district due to begin vertical construction this fall. Tenant announcements for the shopping area are also due this fall, Oakley said.

The Hungry Go Here:

Famous Dave's, 1320 Village West Parkway

The restaurant renowned for its barbecue was the first eatery to open inside Village West. Since it first opened its doors to customers in June of 2003, the restaurant has boomed with business, Oakley said.

Applebee's, 1700 Village West Parkway

Oakley said officials representing "America's Neighborhood Grill and Bar" have told county officials that the Village West branch has become one of their most successful locations.

"They've said this is the highest grossing store in the city, in the metropolitan area," she said.

Sonic, 1714 Village West Parkway

The drive-in restaurant opened in February and has filled a fast food void for the Village West district, Oakley said. "They seem to have a real steady flow," she said.

Russel Stover's, 1300 Village West Parkway, opened for business in February.

New kids on the block: Longhorn's Steakhouse, 1708 Village West Parkway, Bob Evans, 1704 Village West Parkway, and Arthur Bryant's, 1702 Village West Parkway, all opened this summer. Oakley reported that representatives from each restaurant have been pleased with their customer turnouts.

Arthur Bryant's will host an official grand opening ceremony at 11 a.m. Thursday, Aug. 5.

Where to lay your head:

Hampton Inn, 1400 Village West Parkway

The hotel features 77-rooms and opened for business last fall.

Chateau Avalon, 701 Village West Parkway

An upscale, 62-suite bed and breakfast is the most recent addition to Village West. The resort, which hosted a grand opening in July, features themed-rooms and costs between $159 and $349 per night.

Under construction:

W.J. McBride's Irish Pub, 1340 Village West Parkway, is due to begin construction of its restaurant in early October.

Ted's Montana Grill, located across from Longhorn's Steakhouse, is a project of mogul Ted Turner and is also due to begin building this fall.

Amini's Galleria, located north of Nebraska Furniture Mart, has a start date scheduled for this fall and is slated to feature a 8,589 square-foot retail store.

Legends 14, a 14-screen, 3,000 seat movie theater due to begin construction in the next 30 days, is slated for a summer 2005 opening, Oakley said.

The Green Light:

The Kansas City, Kan., Planning Commission has approved the following projects but they are still in various stages of development: Sheridan Frozen Custard and Cheeseburgers and Paradise, a Jimmy Buffett-themed restaurant.

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