WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – It’s been more than a year since a private group announced big plans for a $1.5 billion investment in the Century II area.
That deal never happened, and now some Wichita City Council members say it’s time to move forward.
That could mean a new convention space to go next to Century II.
“So the number one priority in my mind is the convention center,” said Wichita City Council member Bryan Frye. “We are losing business because we don’t have a facility that is built to modern standards.”
Frye says a plan from Penumbra International never happened.
“That turned out to be a disappointment,” said Frye.
And moving forward now, Frye says the dimensions of the current Bob Brown Expo Hall are not right for groups looking to have conventions in Wichita.
Save Century II leaders say a new convention space could add to the riverfront area on the east bank of the Arkansas River in downtown Wichita. But they also hope for more money to go into Century II for upgrades to keep that space in the mix.
“I would hope that Century II would always stay in the mix because it’s an iconic, historic, beautiful building,” said Celeste Racette, Save Century II.
Racette says the City has promised monies to go into Century II in the past, but the money never got spent.
Frye says last year, the City made millions available for Century II upkeep and maintenance over the next ten years. That includes a new roof and improvements to the HVAC and Wi-Fi in the building.
“We need to have that conversation about the entire area again,” said Frye. “The whole river corridor is not being used to the potential it has.”
Some other council members say it is time to move on the riverfront on the east bank around Century II.
“I’m hoping that conversation starts publicly before spring. Definitely before summer,” said Wichita City Council member Brandon Johnson. “You know we have a canvas there that we need to paint. And we don’t have to settle for what we currently have. C2 is important to a lot of people. My interest is in the whole, bigger canvas.”
Johnson says a viable, comprehensive plan for the east river bank is yet to be presented to the City Council. He also believes a new convention space next to Century II could be considered.
“Something that we can be proud of,” said Johnson. “You know, I think the biggest thing that I learned from Penumbra was the challenge of people to re-thinking the structures that we have.”
Both Frey and Johnson say there could be a new plan for the area soon. Both also say it’s time to get creative with the area.
“Again, I love dreaming big, said Frye. “And trying to decide what if, for our riverfront. I think that’s a good discussion to have.”