City waits to vote on $1 an acre land sale

Local

If you build it they will come. But at what cost?

The cost of four acres of land surrounding the new Wichita baseball stadium? $4.

At least that’s the plan. Some are frustrated with the concept.

“It seems we are being held hostage,” said Todd Ramsey, Wichita resident. “Like we really don’t have an option at this point and that’s frustrating.”

Ramsey was one of about a half dozen who asked the city to slow down on Tuesday and get public input on a land sale surrounding the new baseball stadium.

Wichita City Council members could have voted on Tuesday to sell four acres to the Wichita baseball ownership group at a $1 an acre. They decided to hold off for a couple of weeks in a unanimous vote.

Council member Cindy Claycomb was asked by KSN if two weeks is enough time for public input and could the city slow down more than two weeks on making a decision?

“We could. I guess the question is do we want to? Is two weeks long enough?” asked Claycomb of District VI. “I think that’s why I asked for questions today. Let’s find out what the questions are and get those answered, and then, we can make a decision in two weeks.”

Mayor Jeff Longwell is making it public this week that the negotiating team has been talking to the baseball ownership group since the beginning about selling four acres of land. And those four acres surrounding the baseball stadium would sell for one dollar an acre.

Longwell says there is no contract yet for a team that is final.

“So, we don’t have a deal until we all sign the contract. The reality is that’s how deals work,” said Longwell. “We negotiate them in good faith, and then you bring it forward. And the way we do it is bring it forward in a very public way.”

And the mayor and city council are getting a lot of questions about going public with the details of the $4 land deal.

Mayor Longwell says Minor League Baseball rules prohibits city officials from talking about negotiating specifics before a deal is done. And in the Wichita case, that includes a land deal of four acres for $4.

But the deal is going public because the council is ready to vote. Almost.

Some are relieved the deal is not done but say they want more information.

“We just find out about this a couple of days ago before they (city council) are supposed to vote on it?” asked Christoper Parisho, Wichita resident. “I’m glad at the last minute they decided to delay it at least a little bit. I’d like to see the delay be a little bit longer.”

Others say they want more transparency earlier in the process.

“But the main concerns I have are around transparency and honesty and just around the process,” said Paul Lavender, Wichita resident. “How did we make these decisions? What went into the decisions? What were the financials? What is the return on investment? I don’t believe the community has a lot of clarity at this point.”

Council member Claycomb says the city is putting the information on the wichita.gov website and says there will still be time for public engagement.

Still, some say they want more information, and they would like it sooner rather than later. For Ramsey, he said  the process could have been different all throughout negotiations.

“I just have some questions about the process. I understand why we tore down the old stadium. And we couldn’t attract a new team with the stadium we had. But to tear down and begin construction on a new stadium without an agreement in place with a team just seems very, very… ah, I’m not even sure what word to use. Ah, I will say foolish,” said Ramsey. “It seems a little foolish to be so far down the road and as a citizen it seems we are being held hostage like we really don’t have an option at this point and that’s frustrating.”

The city council will vote in two weeks. There will be a town hall meeting taking place either in person or a social media town hall to gather input.

Mayor Longwell points out there is more than just a baseball stadium on the way, so development surrounding the stadium is a key piece of the puzzle.

There will eventually be more than 200 events at the Baseball Stadium Entertainment complex each year. 

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