WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) — The 2023 NCAA basketball tournament is currently underway, and Wichita is already preparing to host some tournament games in 2025.

The City of Wichita last hosted the NCAA men’s basketball tournament in 2018. The city planned to host the tourney again in 2021, but that fell through due to the pandemic.

Now with plans finalized for the 2025 tourney in Wichita again, the City is pushing ahead to bring it back in style, setting its sights on the nearby arts district for a beautification project.

“I think the plans that they have are pretty good plans for doing that,” said Mark Wilkes, owner of Dock 410.

Wilkes has worked on South Commerce Street for 25 years. He says that he looks forward to the reconstruction of the street head of the 2025 NCAA men’s basketball tournament.

“I really was for them keeping the brick on the street, and I think they’re going to do that now,” said Wilkes.

The City plans to reconstruct South Commerce Street and South St. Francis Avenue, located south of Intrust Bank Arena. The two streets would be reconstructed with the existing brick, and the proposed on-street parking areas will be concrete. This will stretch from East Waterman Street to East Kellogg Avenue.

City approves designs for streets south of Intrust Bank Arena (Courtesy: City of Wichita)

“There’s another opportunity to put some, a drive that would take you between both streets instead of having to go down one end,” said Brandon Johnson, Wichita District 1 City Council Member.

The City Council unanimously approved the street designs on Tuesday 7-0. St. Francis would be reconstructed into a two-way street with angled parking on the west side and parallel parking on the east side, sidewalks will be constructed on each side of St. Francis Street, and new pedestrian and vehicle connections will be added between Commerce and St. Francis.

The design would also include new benches, bike racks, trash receptacles, and trees down both streets.

“What we voted on is to ensure that once this project is going and it finishes, it does so at a time when people are coming in for the NCAA Tournament, that they can enjoy the new space, instead of having it under construction when people are here for the first time,” said Wichita Mayor Brandon Whipple.

City Councilman Jeff Blubaugh says the project has been long overdue.

“It’s been well over ten years in the works. This is a great opportunity for us to show off this apron to the arena and host our great city nationally,” said Blubaugh.

While Wilkes says he is concerned construction will temporarily cut down on business…

“We’ve been all the way through building the arena, and, a few years ago, they paved the back end of our buildings, so, you know, I’m for anything that will make the area cool,” said Wilkes.

The City Council still needs to approve the final art plan and funding for construction. The funding for the design concept was approved by the Council on Jan. 18, 2022. City officials anticipate construction will begin in early 2024 and finish by early 2025.