WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – The City of Wichita is full steam ahead preparing for the NCAA basketball tournament.
Thousands of people are expected to descend on Wichita for the first two rounds of the tournament on March 15 – 17. However, long before the crowds make it to the Air Capital, city officials have been hard at work preparing city streets, bridges, signage and lights.
“They call it the big dance, but it’s our opportunity to be on the stage to show the where’s of Wichita and show what a great opportunity we have,” said City of Wichita Assistant Manager Scot Rigby.
Rigby said the opportunity to show off Wichita comes with plenty of responsibility.
“The traffic lights were working fine, but they were looking their age so we went through and repainted them,” Rigby said. “We have been doing repaving, changing some from one way to two-way lanes to provide more access.”
The city has put a lot of focus on Douglas Avenue, one of the main thoroughfares fans will use to get to and from Intrust Bank Arena.
“We have been out there doing some road improvements, some bulb outs, beautification, new lighting,” he said. “It’s the attractiveness. It’s the opportunity for people to say this isn’t just a hard gritty downtown. It’s soft. It makes people feel like they can get out and walk and integrate with the local businesses downtown.”
“If you drive down Douglas, you will see several of those with Cargill’s new headquarter building coming out of the ground, the hotel, the Hilton Garden Inn is under construction just down the street,” said Wichita’s Downtown Development Executive Vice President Jason Gregory.
Gregory has witnessed and been apart of Wichita’s downtown transformation since the city adopted the Project Downtown Master Plan in 2010.
“There have been over 60 major projects approaching half a billion in private sector investments alone in that time frame,” Gregory said.
Many of those investments will be front and center during the tournament.
“I think in any case, you know, a major event like that, you are trying to put your best foot forward and really show the rest of the nation how great Wichita is. If that little sphere so to speak is all they see of Wichita, we want that to be the best,” he said.