Years after the Schlitterbahn water park closed in 2018, another company, Homefield LLC, set its sights on the four hundred-acre lot for its latest entertainment and sport mega project.
The development is still in the early stages, but some construction has begun, with $75 million already spent on various projects, including a two hundred and seventy-four-unit apartment complex by Milhaus, a Camping World store and a Fairfield by Marriott hotel. Moving forward, the development is intended to be increasingly sports- and entertainment-focused, with the construction of several indoor and outdoor sports facilities, hotels, apartments and retail shops.
Homefield focuses on athletic development and training programs, with multiple facilities around Kansas City and Olathe. Robb Heineman, founder of Homefield and current part-owner of Sporting KC, hopes to turn the former water park site into a “youth sports mecca.” With plans for eight outdoor baseball fields and a $40 million Homefield training facility, the project would definitely be a true athlete’s destination.
Discussions about the development began in late 2020, but costs have continued to balloon. Heineman approached the Unified Government of Wyandotte County and Kansas City, Kansas, again in May 2023 to discuss revisions to the plan. The UG unanimously agreed to increase project funding from $648 million to $838 million.
So far, Kansas has issued $115 million in STAR bonds, which is an incentive program to help offset costs for large-scale developments. The developer may request more due to the revisions and increased cost of the project, according to Todd LaSala, the UG’s attorney working on the agreement. Homefield is also seeking $135 million dollars in industrial revenue bonds, which would help them secure a ten-year tax abatement.
Project revisions include the addition of a BigShots golf entertainment complex, similar to the popular Topgolf complexes. The BigShots complex is to be topped off with a bar, restaurant and outdoor mini golf course. The revisions also included the addition of a potential immersive art museum and a sports arena.
Kansas City-based company Dimensional Innovations introduced the concept of the “immersive museum” called Atlas 9. The thirty thousand-square-foot facility would include spaces for interactive and live performances, an auditorium, a concession stand and a gift shop.
“I think on the hot, muggy days of summer when kids are playing baseball, this is a great place to go inside and see something unique,” says Richard Napper, a real estate consultant for Homefield.
Homefield also plans to add a Margaritaville resort and hotel to the project, similar to the chain’s other laid-back Margartiaville destinations in Lake of the Ozarks, Nashville, Palm Springs and the Bahamas. The resort would have two hundred and thirty rooms and include a LandShark restaurant and an indoor pool complete with a climbing wall and a ninja obstacle course.
The company is also working to finalize deals to bring a pickleball complex, a new Hilton Garden Inn and a used car chain to the plans as well.
There are a lot of moving parts to this large-scale development, but Homefield’s partners are excited about the transformation of the defunct Schlitterbahn site. The water park opened in 2009, but business quickly declined after the tragic death of a ten-year-old boy on the Verrückt water slide. Schlitterbahn opened for its last season in 2018 but remained untouched until Homefield set their sights on the area.
Greg Maday, principal of Sporting KC alongside Heineman, says: “We’re really Kansas Citians and not developers. What we’re doing is a development, but we’re about making the community better. We drive by (the former Schlitterbahn water park) every day, and with all due respect, it feels as good to me to tear that down as it does to build what we’re building.”
Changes to the plan are likely to continue, but Homefield hopes to open their youth baseball complex by this summer, in time for the 2023 baseball season, and open the Homefield training facility by 2024.