Bonner council supports amphitheater renovation costs
The city of Bonner Springs has agreed to provide $30,000 and take a more than $8,000 reduction in tax revenues in an effort to ensure Cricket Wireless Amphitheater remains a viable entertainment venue and draw to the city.
The Bonner Springs City Council Monday discussed a renovation and refinancing proposal for the venue in a workshop before the regular council meeting. The council reached a general consensus of support to aid the amphitheater’s management and the Unified Government of Wyandotte County and Kansas City, Kan., in an effort to complete $865,000 of badly needed renovations by next summer.
“If it doesn’t get done, we’re out of business,” said Chris Fritz, president of New West Presentations Inc., which currently operates and manages the facility.
The amphitheater, formerly known as Sandstone, was built 1984 and is now owned by the Unified Government. Annually, the county’s parks and recreation department provides the first $5,000 for any repairs to the facility, winterizes the restrooms, and performs maintenance for the parking lot and pole lights.
New West Presentations Inc. is the facility operator/manager, and under the county’s current agreement with the firm, which ends this year, the firm pays an annual user fee of $85,000.
Fritz told the council that while his firm has put money into the venue over the years, some major improvements now are needed to maintain interest from performers and for safety reasons, particularly with some failing concrete.
Fritz said a contractor told him if the concrete was not repaired in the next two years, a full rip-out of the concrete would be needed at a much higher cost.
Repairs include $200,000 for new seats; $100,000 for asphalt repair; $150,000 for concession stand/restroom improvements; and $120,000 for concrete work.
“We have a niche, we know we can get big acts,” Fritz said. “There’s a lot of acts out there that want to play outdoors that we can get. If we have success doing this, we can do more, add on.”
To complete the proposed renovations, New West has requested an up-front contribution of $115,000 combined from the Unified Government and Bonner Springs. The firm will then borrow the balance of $750,000 with bonds issued by the Unified Government, to be paid over 10 years.
To make the bond payments, estimated at $92,500 annually, New West will charge a $3 fee per ticket sold. The firm will need to sell 52,500 tickets each season.
During that period, the user fee to the Unified Government would be reduced to $50,000.
Additionally, Bonner Springs receives a 50-cent per ticket amusement tax from the amphitheater, which averages about $23,450 in revenue for the city annually. For the 10 years that the bonds are paid off, the city instead would receive a $15,000 user fee. Once New West sells the required 52,500 tickets, it would return to providing an amusement tax, with 75 cents per ticket for the Unified Government and 25 cents per ticket for Bonner Springs.
Prior to the meeting Monday, Bonner’s Economic Development Task Force had supported the agreement, suggesting the city contribute $30,000 up front. Of that, $15,000 would be from the 2015 General Fund using funds budgeted for an IT/PIO position that won’t be filled this year, and $15,000 will come from the tourism budget.
So long as the Unified Government approves providing the remaining $85,000 in up-front costs, renovation construction would begin this fall.
During its regular meeting, the council also set a public hearing for Aug. 10 for the 2016 budget, in which the city’s property tax rate is set to remain the same at 33.616 mills.