Groundbreaking launches district’s Great Wolf Lodge
Kansas Lt. Gov. Gary Sherrer is a happy man whenever he sees the Kansas Speedway and the up and coming tourism district.
"I just smile every time I drive by all of this because I remember when we started all of this a couple of years ago," Sherrer said. "There wasn't quite the enthusiasm there is today and that enthusiasm is going to grow and grow."
Sherrer spoke to a crowd of about 150 who gathered Thursday morning for the ground-breaking ceremony of the Great Wolf Lodge. Construction on the hotel, which includes an indoor water park, is expected to take 12 months. The $51.5 million Great Wolf Lodge will be built in the tourism district a 400-acre area that will include a Cabela's outdoor outfitters store, Nebraska Furniture Mart, a multi-complex movie theatre and an outdoor mall and restaurants all within walking distance of Kansas Speedway, which is 15 miles east of Tonganoxie.
Also on Thursday, Bill Crandall, of Zimmer Management Group, the master developer of the tourism district, announced the name for the tourism district: Village West. The name symbolizes the location in western Wyandotte County as well as the sense of working together as a village.
Sherrer said Village West will be a "first-class" tourism district.
Three representatives of First State Bank and Trust of Tonganoxie had a vested interest when they attended Thurs-day's ground-breaking ceremony for Great Wolf Lodge.
Those present included First State president Kent Needham, executive vice president Chris Donnelly and legal counsel Bill Grant.
The Tonganoxie bank, as well as 27 other Kansas banks that participate in the Bankers Bank of Kansas, provided a total $36 million loan to the Great Lakes Companies. The total cost of the project is about $52 million.
Jay Olsen, senior vice president for BBOK, which is headquartered in Wichita, said BBOK, chartered in 1998, is one of fewer than 20 such banks in the nation.
"It was created to assist community banks in competing with the larger regional banks and the mega-banks," Olsen said.
Today, BBOK is associated with 240 Kansas banks, 110 of which are BBOK stockholders.
For the $36 million financing of the Great Wolf Lodge, loans from participating BBOK Kansas banks ranged from $250,000 to $7.5 million, Olsen said.
"We have smaller banks that have a smaller legal lending limit," Olsen said. "It's not that they didn't want to take more, but they couldn't."
The loan was set up for five years, Olsen said, and it's possible it could be extended at the end of that time.
Needham said, after researching the project, which included sending Grant to tour a new Great Wolf Lodge in Sandusky, Ohio, the bank decided to participate.
"We think there's a great potential for that area," Needham said. "It's amazing how it has already impacted our entire area's economy, it's not only going to help Tonganoxie, but Basehor and a lot of the communities in the area."
It helps that Village West includes multiple business ventures.
"I see it as an opportunity for the area and complimenting Cabela's and Nebraska Furniture Mart," Needham said. "It's a package. You have to look at all of them as an opportunity. Probably any one of them by themselves might be a greater risk, but with the whole package being there and all the activity going on there, it has a greater chance of success."