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Ready to waste away in a Midwest Margaritaville? KCK resort hits construction benchmark

Kansas City Star

Leis. Inflatable palm trees. Beach balls. A margarita machine.

Those party favors set the tone Wednesday at the site of the Margaritaville Hotel in Kansas City, Kansas, as developers and stakeholders witnessed the placement of a final wall panel hoisted by crane.

Onlookers caught sight of the action, as Jimmy Buffett’s “Margaritaville” blared on loudspeakers, from under a canopy set atop shipping containers.

“We couldn’t be happier. It’s a big day,” said Greg Maday, a part-owner and managing partner of Homefield, a developer behind the project.

The tropical-themed hotel is expected to open in summer 2025. It is one piece of an $838 million mega-development poised to further transform western Wyandotte County, a commercial real estate hotspot that officials have provided major tax incentives to support.

The $150 million resort — which shares its name with the popular Buffett song — is part of an international chain with locations in the Lake of the Ozarks, Nashville, Palm Springs and the Bahamas. The KCK hotel sits on the site of the defunct Schlitterbahn Water Park, which ultimately closed after a 10-year-old boy was killed on an unsafe water slide called Verruckt.

Homefield received local and state incentives for its series of projects, including a recently opened $60 million youth sports center at 92nd Street and State Avenue. Eight synthetic turf baseball fields were built a few blocks away.

Still to come are other pieces such as Atlas9, an “immersive museum” in a 30,000-square-foot facility described in planning documents as “a magically-transformed movie theater.” It would include multiple installations, interactive and live performances, as well as a 250-seat auditorium, concession stand and gift shop.

Roughly $116 million was awarded to Homefield through the state’s STAR bond program, an economic weapon that provides upfront capital to developers for big projects meant to drive Kansas tourism. The program is controversial because it limits the direct benefit to government revenues sometimes for years or decades.

STAR bonds were used to develop the Kansas Speedway in Wyandotte County, a project generally seen as a model use of the program, that helped spur the development of the Legends. But not every project has been as successful. In late 2023, the Prairiefire development in southern Overland Park defaulted on its STAR bond debt.

Other major STAR bond projects envisioned in western Wyandotte County include a plan by toy company Mattel to build a themed adventure park, complete with Barbie and Hot Wheels brands. The Bonner Springs City Council in April approved setting the boundaries for a STAR bond district for 183 acres of undeveloped land near 118th Street and State Avenue.

With Margaritaville, developers say the resort will offer a unique experience for visitors, including tourists coming to town for western Wyandotte County’s growing amenities. Maday, of Homefield, expects the hotel will offer an alternative room option for those who currently choose to stay in downtown Kansas City, Missouri.

Partnering with Homefield on the hotel is Sunflower Development Group. Mark Moberly, of Sunflower, believes the Margaritaville brand will be an attraction in itself.

“I think there was some skepticism about ‘Does a Margaritaville make sense in the Midwest?’” said Moberly, who noted the lack of sandy beaches in the region. “And (I) hope we’re gonna prove them wrong. I think the excitement of today probably helps us all feel like we’re headed in the right direction.”

Among those making public remarks during the ceremony Wednesday was Kansas City, Kansas Mayor Tyrone Garner, who called the resort hotel “monumental for Wyandotte County.”

“Everybody that calls themselves a real Dotte deserves this,” the mayor said. “And we’re so glad for every stakeholder and person that’s been a part of this to make this a reality right here in Wyandotte County.”

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