WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) — A large downtown parking lot is closed for good due to underground water tanks showing stress cracks.

Mid-America All-Indian Museum’s parking lot closes (KSN Photo)

City leaders say out of an abundance of caution, one of the Mid-America All-Indian Museum’s parking lots was partially closed in August 2022 and completely closed as of this month. The decision has left the museum with 400 fewer parking spots and fewer options for parking moving forward.

That’s why City leaders held a meeting at the museum Tuesday night to discuss possible changes to the museum’s now former extended parking lot.

“I think as much as anything, it’s going to have to be green space,” City engineer Gary Janzen said. “We know it won’t be parking, we know we can’t add anything to the burden of those, so we can’t put more dirt over there, we can’t build a hill—we can’t do anything like that.”

Some potential options for an updated parking lot include adding 160 spaces to the museum’s smaller lot and making entrances more accessible for elderly and disabled patrons.

“This is vital to the veteran community,” resident Howard Hutchison Jr. said.

Hutchison says the museum’s former larger lot closed one day before last year’s Veteran Awareness Expo. He says another idea for a short-term Arts District shuttle is a no-go.

“We had to scramble to get with the City and do the shuttle thing, and it was a disaster,” Hutchison said. “I think we had 1,000 people, but we would have normally had a couple thousand, so the shuttle is a non-starter for me.”

As for why the City can’t just build new water storage tanks elsewhere, City leaders say it’s cheaper to keep them where they are.

“We’ve estimated in excess of $300 million to move the tanks because we’d also have to move the pump station along with it,” Janzen said.

City leaders say they will continue to develop cost estimates as they work to secure project funding.

“We’re going to take some of this information back to staff, talk to ’em about it and see if we can come up with any alternatives,” District 6 City Councilwoman Maggie Ballard said.

A City spokesperson says there are no start dates for any of the ideas discussed Tuesday. City engineers say they expect to have a recommendation ready within the next few months.