Topeka considering acquiring Heartland Park

Johnny Gray

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Topeka city officials are considering a plan to issue millions of dollars in STAR bonds to acquire the motorsports venue Heartland Park.

The city said in a news release Thursday that a proposal to issue about $4.7 million in new sales tax revenue bonds to acquire the venue and all associated property from the current owner, Jayhawk Racing, will be on the agenda for next Tuesday’s council meeting, The Topeka Capital-Journal reported (http://bit.ly/SFHrBe ).

Mayor Larry Wolgast said Heartland “is an excellent piece of property that has excellent possibilities for development.”

The proposal calls for the city to pay off $10.4 million in STAR bonds the state issued for 20 years in 2006 to finance improvements at Heartland Park, said city spokeswoman Suzie Gilbert, who said increased revenue from the expanded district would cover both old and new debt.

STAR bonds allow Kansas municipalities to issue bonds to finance the development of commercial, entertainment and tourism areas, which are expected to generate enough sales tax revenue to pay off the bonds.

If the agreement is approved, Jayhawk Racing will give the city clear title and management of the property in February 2015. Heartland offers a quarter-mile drag strip with 23 suites, a 2.5-mile championship road course and a 3/8-mile dirt oval track.

The city would seek a buyer or operator for the complex, with a goal of having an agreement by the time the deal is closed, according to the news release.

“This project will significantly benefit Topeka going forward, both economically and in allowing Heartland Park to continue as a world-class motorsports venue,” city manager Jim Colson said. “The proposed plan addresses a significant cash flow challenge for the city. In addition, it allows us to enhance the economic impact of Heartland Park, and it positions us to address blight and economic issues in the Topeka Boulevard corridor.”

City officials estimate Heartland Park’s annual economic impact at $160 million.

Ray Irwin, president of Jayhawk Racing, also supports the proposal for Heartland.

“I am extremely pleased that the city of Topeka and Heartland Park Topeka will be joining together in this new agreement, assuring our mutual goal of continuing the excellence and tradition of NHRA and other highly visible events at Heartland Park,” Irwin said. “Equally important is that this agreement also provides additional property for the city to use in its ever-improving economic development of Topeka.”

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Information from: The Topeka (Kan.) Capital-Journal, http://www.cjonline.com

 

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