With the glitz of Intrust Bank Arena downtown and the shine of Hartman Arena across the highway, the Kansas Pavilions will send a message this weekend that it's not anyone's stepchild.
Sedgwick County is spotlighting the renamed pavilions, formerly part of the Kansas Coliseum complex, with a free community event Saturday.
The public is invited to "rediscover" the pavilions, long home to horse and dog shows, swap meets, gun shows and tractor pulls.
The community event from 1 to 4 p.m. will feature horse rides, K-9 search and rescue demonstrations, dog agility shows, a clown rodeo and complimentary refreshments.
Although Britt Brown Arena, the centerpiece of what was the Kansas Coliseum, has closed, the county has committed to keeping the pavilions open through at least 2016.
Assistant County Manager Ron Holt said the county spent $4 million on renovations in 2007 and continues to make improvements. Next on the project list is a new shower house and resurfacing of one of the parking lots.
Sam Fulco Pavilion, formerly called Pavilion No. 1, has been spruced up with a new roof and insulation, remodeled restrooms, new paint, a redesigned cafeteria, and mechanical, electrical and ventilation upgrades. That's also true for Pavilion No. 2 and the arena building.
The county also built an outdoor exercise arena between the arena building and Pavilion No. 2 and made repairs and resurfaced parking lots B and B1. Parking lot C will be repaired this spring.
The county has changed the Kansas Coliseum sign on I-135 to reflect the name change to the Kansas Pavilions. Entrance gates also are being changed up a bit to get people to the pavilions more directly.
The county is paying for the improvements with money raised by the 1 percent arena sales tax that voters approved and was collected for 30 months.
Pavilions manager Glenda Roths said user groups have appreciated updated lighting and electrical throughout the complex.
Pat Deshler, corresponding secretary for the Wichita Kennel Club, the host club for the Sunflower Cluster dog shows, said the shower house will be a welcome addition for the many show participants who travel to the event.
Holt said construction should start on the shower house in the next couple of months.
The dog show will be April 7-10. The Wichita Kennel Club was vocal about keeping the pavilions open, as were other groups such as the Kansas Horse Council, which puts on EquiFest each year at the complex.
While commissioners were discussing the pavilions' future, the groups said they would have nowhere else to have their events if the complex closed.
The county last year hired a consultant, who recommended keeping the pavilions open through at least 2016 and rebranding the Coliseum as the Kansas Pavilions.
Although that name change happened a while ago, the county hadn't yet had a community event to recognize it.
Saturday's open house will do that.
"It's an open house with some activities to not only get people to come through and see it but make it worthwhile of their time," Holt said.
Commission Chairman Dave Unruh said he will miss Saturday's event but added, "I think folks who haven't been there lately will be appropriately impressed."
Commissioner Tim Norton said it's too soon to tell if the improvements will draw new events to the pavilions, but "I think it's made people feel better about using them," he said. "I think we're dedicated to making the pavilions as viable and useful to the citizens of Sedgwick County as we can."