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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Vibrant Wichita has much to offer residents, visitors

By Go Wichita

There is excitement on Wichita’s horizon — the type of excitement that will make Wichita an even more attractive destination for tourists and conventions.

Six million people visit Wichita annually, spending $702 million in our businesses and generating $62 million in taxes for the city, county and state. There are many new developments that we believe will increase the number of visitors and continue the growth of our region’s economy.

For starters, the new Kansas Star Casino is already generating an influx of visitors to south-central Kansas, and those visitors soon learn that our part of the state has a lot to offer. One exciting 2012 exhibit is “Star Wars: Where Science Meets Imagination,” which will be shown at Exploration Place from May 26 through Sept. 3. The Intrust Bank Arena staff continues to work with promoters to bring a full slate of concerts and special events to downtown.

And the downtown master plan and Visioneering Wichita are prompting developers to take a close look at our core area, which has improved its attractiveness to visitors.

Adding to the visitor experience in northeast Wichita, Cabela’s will open in March.

Cabela’s could become one of the anchors of a proposed sports tourism and shopping destination district at K-96 and Greenwich Road. The proposed development includes a 53,000-square-foot sports fieldhouse. Such a facility would complement the Prairie Fire Marathon, the Wichita Wildcat Classic, our professional baseball, hockey, soccer and indoor football teams, and collegiate sports.

Wichita continues to offer cultural events on par with much larger cities. Music Theatre of Wichita launches the careers of future Broadway stars. The 2012 schedule includes “Fiddler on the Roof,” “9 to 5” and “Singin’ in the Rain.” For more than 10 years, Wichita Grand Opera has brought internationally known performers and world-class ballet companies to the Kansas plains. The Wichita Symphony Orchestra maintains its tradition of spotlighting guest musicians from across the country while performing a repertoire that ranges from Beethoven to the Beatles.

And Theater League presents Disney’s “The Lion King” Sept. 4-30 at Century II. This is possible thanks to a portion of the $20 million renovation program that installed removable seating in the Concert Hall.

Other renovations modernize restrooms and add features such as wireless Internet access that will make Century II more attractive to conventions and special events such as the American Rabbit Breeders Association, the Society of Decorative Painters and the Midwest Fish and Wildlife Conference. These meetings will bring thousands of convention attendees to town.

Visitors need a place to stay. That’s why it’s exciting to see new hotel projects such as the Ambassador Hotel, which is under construction, along with recently completed renovations at the Hyatt Regency Wichita and the Drury Plaza Hotel Broadview. Other new hotels include the Fairfield Inn & Suites by Marriott Wichita Downtown, the Hampton Inn & Suites Northeast, Holiday Inn Express Northwest, the Sleep Inn in Haysville, plus the Holiday Inn Express in Newton.

National travel trends researched and reported in the Ypartnership/Harrison Group’s 2011 Portrait of American Travelers predicts that “family travel will continue to grow because of the burgeoning popularity of multi-generational leisure travel.”

I believe Wichita and south-central Kansas are perfectly positioned to take advantage of this trend. Our region is filled with family-friendly attractions and activities. We are definitely an affordable place to visit.

At the same time, Go Wichita assists local residents with planning a wedding or a reunion, providing one-on-one service to help find the right venue for their special event. We also assist residents who contact us to ask, “What is there to do in Wichita?”

All you need to do is look around to see that Wichita and south-central Kansas are vibrant and growing.

John Rolfe is president and CEO of Go Wichita. He is scheduled to become chief operations officer for the Greater Houston Convention & Visitors Bureau next month.

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