Roeland Park councilmember raises questions about long-term viability of Zip KC challenge course proposal

Vacant for decades, the former Merriam pool site is being prepared for redevelopment.
Vacant for decades, the former Roeland Park pool site is being prepared for redevelopment.

By Jerry LaMartina

Zip KC expects to complete a feasibility study in mid-February for its proposed extreme sports venue on the site of the former pool at 48th Street and Roe Avenue in Roeland Park. Jason Glasrud, development manager for CBC Real Estate Group, made a presentation on the project at the City Council’s workshop Monday. Zip KC seeks a 15-year ground lease for a nearly 2-acre parcel on the site.

Zip KC currently operates a zip line park along the Kansas River in Bonner Springs. Their initial Roeland Park proposal would not feature zip lines, but instead a vertical challenge course.

City officials said in early January that they had received two non-binding letters of intent from developers interested in the old pool site. In addition to Zip KC’s proposed project, the Sunflower Development Group wants to buy the site’s upper portion and build a four- or five-story hotel for roughly $14 million. The city’s Ad Hoc Development Committee is considering using community improvement district (CID) funds and a hotel tax to build a road connecting the upper and lower portion of the site, build an access road to Roe and relocate utilities. This work is expected to cost about $600,000.

At the Monday workshop, Ward 3 Councilman Ryan Kellerman asked whether the project would take away any other land on the site that could be used for other retail. Glasrud said it wouldn’t, though he said that “by virtue of (Zip KC) having the ground lease, they’d have the exclusive right to develop on that area.”

Ward 1 Councilwoman Becky Fast asked Glasrud why Zip KC sought a 15-year lease instead of a 10-year lease.

“Fads change,” Fast said. “Fifteen years ago, paintball was huge; now it’s dead. And the (city’s) liability as the property owner — what release would we have if the caves fall in or (if landslides occur)?”

Zip KC seeks a 15-year lease, Glasrud said, “given the sizeable investment they’re going to be making and the city’s going to be making.”

“Fifteen years is a long time, but the city has right to terminate this ground lease if Zip KC ceases to operate for the length of time throughout the year that we expect them to, or if it ceases to operate altogether, and the city has right to take property back,” he said.

City Administrator Keith Moody said that the lease would require having an on-site inspector to make daily inspections during construction, which would “become the assurance we provide to a lessee or buyer that it’s safe,” and that “we don’t anticipate building on what used to be the caves.”

The city would offer no tax-increment financing or tax abatements for the project, Moody said.

A final project agreement is expected to come back before the council in the coming months.