From Arena to Casino?

With Wichita getting a new basketball arena, a creative way to put the aging Kansas Coliseum to use is hitting the forefront: turning it into a casino.

In discussions surrounding a request for proposals for the endeavor, Sedgwick County commissioners said they were not supporting gambling or telling constituents how to vote but wanted to be prepared if voters approve former Mayor Bob Knight’s $300 million hotel-casino plan, the Wichita Eagle reported.

Knight, who holds options on land across from Kansas Coliseum, said his group would respond to a request for proposals to put the project on the site.

The county has debated what should be done with the county-owned Coliseum since 2004, when voters approved a $185 million, 15,000-capacity basketball arena scheduled to open in 2009.

If it lands at the Kansas Coliseum site, Knight’s group would likely tear down the adjacent Britt Brown Arena but use its footings to build a parking garage, the Eagle reported. The complex’s pavilions – convention centers that host horse shows, dog shows and flea markets – would remain intact, Knight said.

But first the County Commission must endorse the project and voters will have the chance to approve a casino in their county in an August 7th election. If approved by voters, casino developers will need to send applications within 90 days – a fast turn-around, commission chairman Dave Unruh said.

Knight’s group has proposed a 60-acre project featuring a 260,000-square-foot casino with a 300-room hotel, restaurants and more, the paper reported.