Will Boeing stay or go?
Will developers of a boutique hotel in downtown Wichita open it as planned, with city subsidies?
Where will new school boundary lines be, and who will attend a new high school in Bel Aire?
Who will be elected president?
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The theme for 2012 seems to be uncertainty. (And let’s not even mention that Mayan calendar, end-of-the-world scenario next December.)
Nevertheless, another year means another slate of notable developments in Wichita and elsewhere. Here are 12 things to expect in 2012:
1. The next few weeks should bring a much-anticipated announcement regarding the future of Boeing Co.’s Wichita operations. Fears about the closure of Boeing’s Wichita plant resurfaced recently after U.S. Rep. Mike Pompeo told reporters he had heard that modification work on Air Force refueling tankers would be done in Washington state.
Boeing has had a facility in Wichita since it bought the Stearman Aircraft Co. in 1929. The facility has 2,100 employees and specializes in modifying commercial aircraft for military or government operations. The company said it’s still reviewing its Wichita operations and won’t make an announcement about any work moving elsewhere until early 2012.
2. Lovers of the outdoors will have a new place to shop when an 80,000-square-foot Cabela’s store at K-96 and Greenwich opens for business in early spring. During a ceremonial groundbreaking, company and city dignitaries celebrated the arrival of the beloved retailer.
“We’re embarking on something truly great that will help boost the economy and everything that goes with it,” said Wichita City Council member Pete Meitzner.
The Cabela’s chain sells thousands of products related to fishing, hunting, camping, boating, hiking and wildlife-watching. Its 190,000-square-foot store in Kansas City, Kan., is one of the state’s leading tourist attractions.
3. Preliminary demolition has begun at downtown Wichita’s first boutique hotel, but its future is unclear pending a Feb. 28 vote on whether to tap the city bed tax to help finance the project.
Forced by a successful petition drive, the City Council voted earlier this month to put an estimated $2.25 million subsidy before voters. The money would be used to help finance the planned Ambassador Hotel, a 117-room, $22.5 million hotel planned for the former Union National Bank building at Douglas and Broadway. Developers say the project is on target for a December 2012 opening.
4. In late February the Wichita school board is expected to approve new school attendance boundarie s that could affect many of the district’s 50,000 students and their families.
The district hasn’t tackled a boundary change of this magnitude since 1978, when Northwest High School opened. New boundaries are intended to address overcrowding at some schools, cut district costs and establish attendance areas for five new schools scheduled to open in the fall.
An advisory group is considering proposals that would close four elementary schools, expand several others, change pure magnet middle schools to neighborhood magnets and shift the Northeast Magnet High School program to a new school being built in Bel Aire.
5. Wichita-area voters will go to the polls in November to elect a president, congressional representative, state lawmakers, Sedgwick County commissioners, sheriff and more. President Obama is running for re-election, and so are 4th District U.S. Rep. Mike Pompeo and Sheriff Robert Hinshaw.
6. Gov. Sam Brownback’s agenda for Kansas includes plans to change the state’s tax structure, overhaul the school finance formula and the state pension system, alter Medicaid and construct new water policies. Meanwhile, the Legislature will tackle redistricting during an election year. And an architect says the state Capitol’s copper dome and roof need to be replaced; statements from contractors are being reviewed, and bidding should begin in the spring.
7. The force is coming to Exploration Place in May, when the Wichita museum will host its largest traveling exhibit to date: “Star Wars: Where Science Meets Imagination.”
The exhibition, created by the Museum of Science in Boston in collaboration with Lucasfilm Ltd. and the National Science Foundation, features more than 80 costumes, models and props from all six “Star Wars” films. The museum also plans to overhaul its flight pavilion. Officials are in the midst of designing and fundraising for that $1 million project and hope to announce detailed plans and sketches in the fall.
8. The grand new $23 million Central Family YMCA is expected to open in 2012, replacing the old downtown facility at 402 N. Market. The building will transform downtown with a stylish transparent tower that lights up at night, and officials hope it will greatly expand recreation and services to thousands of low-income youngsters and their families.
The 110,000-square-foot building will have an indoor running track, two indoor pools, two gymnasiums, racquetball/handball courts, meeting rooms, a Kid Zone drop-in nursery and more.
9. A staple of Broadway for 15 years, Disney’s “The Lion King” finally will roar to the Wichita stage in September as part of Theater League’s 2012-13 season. The production is able to be staged in Wichita partially because of a renovation of the Century II Concert Hall that allows crews to remove seats for a center-aisle parade that starts the show.
In other entertainment news, Wichita’s historic Orpheum Theater turns 90 in 2012 and will celebrate with a Valentine’s Day concert by legendary blues guitarist B.B. King. Intrust Bank Arena will host George Strait, Martina McBride and Tom Petty.
10. The year in sports will include the 2012 Summer Olympic Games in London, K-State vs. Arkansas in the Cotton Bowl on Jan. 6 and the national Junior Cricket Championships in Haysville. Charlie Weis will coach his first football game at the University of Kansas, and Wichita’s Heights High School will try for its fourth straight boys state basketball title. Up the road in Kansas City, Mo., Kauffman Stadium will host baseball’s All-Star Game on July 10.
11. A few notable new restaurants and businesses will open in Wichita, including natural grocer Fresh Market at Bradley Fair, two Chick-fil-A restaurants, Texas-based burger chain Mooyah and businessman Wink Hartman’s private Lakeside Club at 21st and Webb Road.
12. Finally, 2012 will be a big year for the big screen. Hot tickets will include “The Hunger Games,” “The Hobbit,” “The Great Gatsby,” “Les Miserables,” “The Avengers,” “The Dark Knight Rises,” Pixar’s “Brave” and “The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2.” In October, the Tallgrass Film Festival will celebrate its 10th anniversary.