A plan to make Century II more attractive to conventions will be the focus of the Wichita City Council on Tuesday.
The council will be asked to approve $1.91 million in bonding for upgrades for the facility, along with a study to determine its future as a convention center.
“We’d like to determine what the market looks like for convention business before we go forward,” said John D’Angelo, the city’s arts and cultural services manager who oversees Century II’s operation.
The city and the convention bureau, Go Wichita, have hired Conventions Sports and Leisure International, a planning and advisory firm that consults with the convention industry, to measure Century II against current convention needs.
D’Angelo said the bonding before the council includes money for a design to accommodate the results of that report, whether it recommends upgrading or expanding Century II.
“From that study, we anticipate a couple of different types of scenarios,” D’Angelo said. “As they apply to the design of the building, either the renovation and rehabilitation of the convention space or the expansion of the space. So once the study is finished, we’re going to hire a designer to make it into what a new state of the art facility would look like. It could be as simple as a renovation, or it could be as complicated as a new facility. It’s important to have a market study behind that, though, to make sure the assumptions we make are correct.”
Council member Pete Meitzner said the timing is right for a hard look at Century II’s future.
“The dynamics of what our city has done downtown puts us in a position to look at bigger things,” Meitzner said. “It is just very healthy that we do an analysis of the building at this point.”
Funding comes from the city’s transient guest tax fund, with Go Wichita paying for the market study. The city’s transient guest tax is an extra tax levied against guests at Wichita hotels. It is used to promote convention and tourism pursuits, and for maintenance and upgrades at Century II.
The proposed work includes security upgrades, elevator and freight lift evaluation, exhibitor services technology and equipment, addition of rehearsal space, plumbing maintenance, electrical and maintenance work, restroom improvements and kitchen and concession remodeling. City documents don’t include an itemized account of the cost of each piece of work.
“It’s really a continuation of event equipment replacement to allow us to continue to operate,” D’Angelo said. “Tables, chairs, the kind of things that wear out over time, and some money for cosmetic things like painting and some technological upgrades.”
The 2013 project comes on the heels of $3 million of work to the performing arts portion of Century II, including improvements to the facility’s first floor concert hall.
More performing arts work, and more market studies, are likely, D’Angelo said, a position endorsed by council member Jeff Longwell.
“We’ve got some work to do and some decisions that will need to be made on the long-term needs there,” Longwell said. “Where do we go with the civic center? Is it expandable? Do we move it toward the river?
“But at the same time while this dialogue is going on, there are things we need to do that cannot be neglected over there and need some fixes.”