Wichita plans to replace seats in Century II

WICHITA — The seating in Century II's Concert Hall will be replaced as part of $2.3 million in renovations approved by the Wichita City Council this morning.

The funds also will pay for waterproofing on leaky windows, replacement of doors that have been scratched up over the years and installation of new electrical floor boxes in the Expo Hall.

Most of the improvements will happen between August and October this year, when major tenants, such as the Wichita Symphony Orchestra and Music Theater of Wichita, won't need the hall.

The changes have been planned since 2008, when an assessment of needs found many electrical and mechanical aspects of the 40-year-old building difficult, costly and, sometimes, impossible to fix.

A proposed renovation of Kennedy Plaza, which buffers Century II from Douglas, has been put off until Goody Clancy completes its long-term downtown revitalization plan.

The Concert Hall seats drew the most attention.

Council member Sue Schlapp said that she attended a show and her back hurt so bad afterward she went to a physical therapist. Schlapp said the physical therapist said she gets a lot of business from problems stemming from seating at Century II.

"I didn't realize the magnitude (of the problem)," she said.

Schlapp recommended that the city consult with someone to ensure new seats don't cause back problems.

In 2012 and 2013, the city plans to spend about $18.6 million to work on Century II's roof, the plaza, acoustics in the concert hall and other major changes.

John D'Angelo, director of the city's culture and arts department, said this year's improvements shouldn't affect rental rates at the facility. But he said he plans to bring rate increase proposals to tenants and council members sometime soon.

Rates haven't been increased since 2003, he said.