City unveils new seats, renovations at Century II Concert Hall

The new Century II logo.
The new Century II logo.

Goodbye sore backs and bottoms. Or at least that's what the city hopes now that it has installed 2,197 new seats in the Century II Concert Hall.

The seats, which cost $268 each after delivery and installation, are the most prominent part of $941,000 in renovations at the 40-year-old facility.

The improvements were unveiled this afternoon to a small audience of city officials, media and facility tenants, including representatives from the Wichita Symphony Orchestra, Music Theatre of Wichita and the Wichita Grand Opera. Concert-goers will see the new improvements Saturday evening when the Wichita Symphony Orchestra plays its Classics Concert.

Among improvements: rigging systems that lift backdrops on the stage were replaced; a new light dimming system was installed; handicap accessible seating was improved; and the massive concert hall got new paint and carpet. Officials also presented a new logo for Century II, which depicts the building's iconic blue dome in simple brush strokes.

Mayor Carl Brewer summed up his reaction to the renovations in one word: "Wow."

He said the city was careful to recycle as much as it could and used environmentally-friendly products in the renovations.That included donating 48 dimmer switches to Derby Middle School, recycling 33 tons of cast iron and steel and recycling about 8,000 pounds of cardboard.

Theater patrons complained for years about the comfort of the old seats, and the facility has seen only a few renovation projects since it was built.

"The Concert Hall not only looks better, but it is now up to the new industry standards," Brewer said. "This will allow the city to continue to attract shows and stage productions that otherwise wouldn't come here."

The improvements took about eight weeks to complete. They are part of an anticipated $22 million worth of projects at Century II, which includes a convention area and theater. That would include an expansion of the Bob Brown Expo Hall. Most of those projects will require approval by the city council.

It's unclear when other projects may start, though John D'Angelo, the city's director of arts and cultural services, said the band shell behind the orchestra will likely be replaced by 2012.

Mitch Bermen, executive director of the symphony, said he was impressed with the improvements. He said that it's too early to tell whether the new seats, carpet and paint will have any noticeable impact on the hall's acoustics. But he said concert-goers will notice the amenities. 

"We experience concerts with our eyes as much as our ears," he said.

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