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City Council approves Century II performing arts study

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Tuesday, Dec. 3, 2013, at 10:22 a.m.
  • Updated Thursday, Jan. 30, 2014, at 2:05 p.m.

The future of Century II now includes a detailed study of the city’s performing arts needs.

The Wichita City Council on Tuesday unanimously approved the selection of Kansas City-based Populous and Wichita-based GLMV Architecture to conduct a planning and design study for the four-decade-old convention and performing arts center downtown.

But that work will be on hold for four to eight weeks after a consultant is selected to study the city’s performing arts needs, a $30,000 to $50,000 study funded by Go Wichita, the city’s arts council and Music Theatre of Wichita.

The three funding partners agreed late last month to the study on the request of the council, which deferred a Nov. 19 vote on Populous’ selection to see if a study could be worked out.

“This will give us an opportunity to pause the designers as the second study catches up,” said John D’Angelo, the city’s Century II manager. “It allows this group to begin the four to eight weeks of work they need to do. It’s an opportunity to keep both projects moving forward in a simultaneous way.”

The results of the arts needs assessment will be collected and used by Populous and GMLV along with the results of the convention market assessment, which showed that Wichita can handle more national conventions.

Council member Lavonta Williams praised the quick agreement to privately fund the study.

“We have so much more in common than we have differences,” she said. “We found out here that we’re able to work these issues out in an amicable way.”

Wayne Bryan, producing artistic director of Music Theatre, said the arts community is pleased with the study agreement.

“It’s been a very stimulating and good couple of weeks,” Bryan said.

He noted that Bill Krueger, the consultant with Conventions Sports and Leisure who did a convention market study for Go Wichita, endorsed the performing arts study.

Krueger’s firm recommended the construction of a new or expanded expo hall, potentially with the retrofitting of Century II for the performing arts. The iconic blue-domed building also could be razed for a new convention and performing arts facility.

Music Theatre, Bryan said, brought 75,000 people downtown for its performances last year, including an estimated 15,000 from out of town.

“They attended our shows, bought concessions, dined and shopped here and they stayed in our hotels,” Bryan said.

“We don’t need to be the first person consulted on these changes, but we’re very glad to be at the table.”

Populous is the former HOK Sport, an architectural firm best known for its design of sporting stadiums and arenas.

Council members are weighing a long-term sales tax initiative that could go to voters as early as next fall. Part of that initiative could be expanded convention space and a new performing arts center or a remodeled Century II.

Reach Bill Wilson at 316-268-6290 or bwilson@wichitaeagle.com. Follow him on Twitter: @bwilsoneagle.

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