WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – It has been more than a year since a private group announced major plans to invest $1.5 billion 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 complement Century II.
“So the number one priority in my mind is the convention center,” said City Council Member Bryan Frye. “We’re losing business because we don’t have a facility built to modern standards.”
Frye says a Penumbra International plan never came to fruition.
“It turned out to be a disappointment,” Frye said.
Moving forward now, Frye says the size of the current Bob Brown Expo Hall is not suitable for groups wishing to hold conventions in Wichita.
Save Century II leaders say new convention space could be added to the riverfront area on the east bank of the Arkansas River in downtown Wichita. But they’re also hoping more money goes into Century II for upgrades to keep that space in the mix.
“I hope Century II always stays in the mix because it’s an iconic, historic and beautiful building,” said Celeste Racette with Save Century II.
Racette says the city has pledged money to get into Century II in the past, but the money has never been spent.
Frye says the City made millions available last year for maintenance and upkeep of Century II over the next ten years. This includes a new roof and improvements to the HVAC and WIFI in the building.
“We need to have that conversation again about the whole area,” Frye said. “The entire river corridor is not being used to the potential it has.”
Some other council members say it’s time to move to the riverfront on the east bank around the century II.
“I hope the conversation starts publicly before spring. Definitely before summer,” City Council member Brandon Johnson said. “You know we have a canvas there that we need to paint. the entire larger canvas.
Johnson says a feasible and complete plan for the east bank of the river has yet to be presented to city council. He also believes new convention space could be considered next to Century II.
“Something we can be proud of,” Johnson said. “You know, I think the most important thing I learned from Penumbra was challenging people to rethink the structures that we have.”
Both Frey and Johnson say there may be a new plan for the area soon. They both also say it’s time to get creative with the area.
“Again, I love to dream big,” Frye said. “And trying to decide what if, for our riverfront. I think that’s a good discussion to have.