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Dennis I. Clary: Updated Century II would boost Wichita

  • Published Sunday, Dec. 15, 2013, at 12 a.m.

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Recently released findings from a study commissioned to assess Wichita’s convention market confirmed that our current convention facilities fall well below industry standards and put Wichita at a competitive disadvantage.

In the hypercompetitive regional convention market, we need to be doing it better than Overland Park and Oklahoma City.

The study found that an additional $30 million in annual economic output could be realized by addressing Wichita’s convention facility needs. This figure largely represents the entrance of outside dollars into our community. Like a prized export or the generation of primary jobs, a well-developed convention product means real economic growth – something from which every citizen can benefit.

The Young Professionals of Wichita board of trustees proudly advocates for continued downtown revitalization. A vibrant downtown is important because we place great value on the development of our community and quality of life – for everyone. The future of Century II is undoubtedly a part of that vision, if not the shining beacon.

The momentum a renovated or rebuilt convention space would generate for downtown, and thus Wichita, cannot be denied. Moreover, the dollars generated by the events held at the facility extend beyond the reach of our community to positively impact the entire region and state. It is imperative we do something to realize the $30 million convention potential.

Unlike many other cities where convention facilities and a performing arts venue are separate, Wichita is unique in that Century II serves as both. Its permanent residents include the Wichita Symphony Orchestra, Music Theatre of Wichita and Wichita Grand Opera. In addition to others, these vital arts organizations generate about $66 million a year and draw visitors to the city.

I applaud Go Wichita, the city’s Arts Council and Music Theatre for funding a study to assess the city’s performing arts needs. It is an appropriate next step and underscores the importance of collaboration as we continue to address the future of Century II. A rich performing arts environment and the battle to attract convention business are both critical to our community’s economic vitality.

There is an old adage: “You are never stagnant. You are either moving ahead or falling behind.” The data substantiates that to renovate Century II or rebuild aligns with the former. It is a path to increased economic prosperity for our community, region and state. Which will you choose?

Dennis I. Clary is chairman of the Young Professionals of Wichita board of trustees.

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