City leaders are recommending expanding and renovating Century II in downtown Wichita instead of building new facilities.
The preliminary ideas presented at a special workshop Tuesday night are based on a consultant’s report.
A California company spent three months analyzing financing, operational and development options for the city’s 48-year old convention and performing arts center.
City Manager Robert Layton said the city should consider expanding the convention center and using a private operator with a long-term lease.
Century II has been running an operational deficit since at least 1999, and has been losing convention business to other nearby cities.
Layton also recommended keeping the blue-dome building as the home for performing arts.
"This building means a lot to a number of people in this community. It is, some would call, it 'iconic,'" he said. "I think it is time we embrace this facility but recognize that it needs to be modernized, that is has to not just be representative of the past but more importantly, represent the needs today and of the future."
Layton says the city would take care of priority maintenance issues with the aging building before renovations would begin.
Other recommendations include developing a long-term funding plan with naming rights and selling city-owned property adjacent to the Century II complex.
"This may not turn out to be the plan that has the highest return on investment to the city," Layton said. "But I do think it’s the plan that we can eventually afford and be able to move forward, and I think maybe get out of that paralysis that we’ve had because of the scope and magnitude of this issue that we faced in the past."
The consultant, Arup Advisory, Inc., found that alternative revenue streams can generate up to $30 million but are not sufficient to reduce new tax revenue that would be needed for an extensive remodel of Century II or building new facilities.
The report also says joint real estate development plus operational improvements can generate between $77 to $85 million in investments to offset upgrades to Century II.
Arup recommends separating the convention center and performing arts operations.
The city’s preliminary recommendations also include:
- a city/county partnership for joint management of convention center and Intrust Bank Arena
- contracting with Visit Wichita for marketing and management services
- determining if existing Central Library can be incorporated into the convention center expansion project
- creating an advisory committee to guide the restoration and remodeling of Century II performing arts building
- identifying uses for non-theater spaces
About 100 people attended the nearly two-hour presentation to Wichita City Council members.
Layton said he expects to launch a community engagement process next month to get feedback on the preliminary recommendations.
Follow Deborah Shaar on Twitter @deborahshaar.
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