Clinton Lake proposal intriguing

Resort could benefit state as well as Lawrence

By The Mercury

It isn’t hard to envision a resort at Clinton State Park outside Lawrence. The park and Clinton Lake are terrific assets, and given their proximity to Kansas City, a well planned resort there might well attract folks looking for an option to the Lake of the Ozarks as well as Kansans to the west of Lawrence.

Whether the idea becomes a reality depends on numerous factors, not the least of which is a state committee that will review a proposal submitted last month.

That proposal, from Overland Park-based LodgeWell Resorts, was the only response to the Kansas Department of Administration after the state issued a request for proposals for a hotel and conference center that could transform the lake into a regional destination.

The lack of a greater response to the request for proposals is disappointing, but it shouldn’t affect the state’s consideration of the LodgeWell Resorts proposal. Though details haven’t been released, the state is believed to have sought proposals that would include a 175-room hotel, a conference center with about 9,000 square feet of meeting space in addition to a ballroom of 6,500 square feet, several restaurants — including a lakeside bar and grill — a couple of pools, a spa, an outdoor sports center, a water sports center and more.

That all sounds good, certainly, but as those who have long envisioned a resort at Clinton Lake realize, obstacles abound. Among them is the absence of water and sewer service; the state park is not hooked up to Lawrence’s sewer and water service, and extending them would be a multi-million-dollar endeavor.

That is just one cost of many to be worked out. Those would be the responsibility of developers, but to what extent and how the state might encourage the project are valid questions.

A resort at Clinton Lake has the active support of Robin Jennison, secretary of the Department of Wildlife and Parks; he is negotiating a 50-year lease for the project with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.  As for financial incentives, state Commerce Department officials declined comment. Nevertheless, some incentives, whether in the form of tax breaks, STAR bonds or other options,  would seem likely.

Modest incentives could be justified as investments if the state were to benefit, either directly or indirectly.

The state’s interest in a resort at Clinton Lake is understandable and appropriate. In fact, the state has an interest in encouraging developments that take advantage of the unique characteristics of other lakes and state parks.  Whether visitors come to Kansas to sightsee, swim, shop, hunt, fish, or take in college athletic events, they spend money that enhances the state’s prosperity. Let’s have some more of that.

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