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Wichita Approves Issuance of STAR Bonds for Ballpark Project

New Wichita ballpark

On Tuesday, the Wichita City Council approved the issuance of STAR bonds to help cover a new ballpark project for the relocating New Orleans Baby Cakes (Class AAA; Pacific Coast League). 

The new Wichita ballpark is set to open in time for the 2020 season, with the city expected to spend more than $80 million on project costs. That figure accounts for the ballpark itself and infrastructure improvements, including a pedestrian bridge that would cross the Arkansas River. In addition, mixed-use development is being pitched for land north of the ballpark, with bars and restaurants, entertainment spots, retail, offices, and living space potentially a part of that mix.

A key part of the funding model calls for the project to be backed by Sales Tax and Revenue (STAR) bonds, which can be paid off from increases in sales tax revenue within particular districts. The City Council had previously approved the sale of STAR bonds, but took another step forward with Tuesday’s 7-0 vote to authorize the issuance of the bonds. More from the Wichita Eagle:

The STAR bonds, tax increment financing, community improvement district funds and general obligation bonds are expected to cover project costs.

STAR bonds allow the city to borrow money for development then pay off the debt using increases in sales tax income from certain districts. The ballpark project will be paid for by STAR districts along the riverbanks from Kellogg to the Keeper of the Plains.

The city’s director of finance, Shawn Henning, told council members Tuesday that the $40 million in STAR bonds, which had previously been approved by the state, were sold on Nov. 1. The council approved their sale at its Oct. 16 meeting. Tuesday’s vote was to approve the issuance of the bonds.

Henning said the bond sale yielded a 3.915 rate, which she called “very favorable given the market conditions and the security that we had” for their issuance. Financing costs for the bonds will be about $2.14 million, she said. The bonds are payable over 20 years.

The new ballpark will be constructed on the site of Lawrence-Dumont Stadium, which will be demolished to make way for the facility. A Class AA Southern League team is expected to move to New Orleans at the same time that the Pacific Coast League franchise relocates to Wichita. The move of a as-of-yet-unanounced Southern League team would come under the ownership of the current New Orleans ownership, led by Lou Schwechheimer, allowing the Baby Cakes moniker to live on in New Orleans while the Wichita club receives a name of its own.

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