A strong majority of people at a meeting Monday night to discuss the future of Century II professed a love for the building in downtown Wichita, begging that it not be changed.
And if changes have to be made, they said, do it by creating retail businesses and restaurants in the surrounding area, keeping the performing arts a strong focus of the building, making it more accessible for senior citizens who struggle with steps and finding adequate parking.
Monday’s public meeting marked the second phase of planning the future of Century II’s performing arts and convention needs. It drew about 50 people. It is one of several meetings that will be conducted through June.
“Our real purpose tonight is really a listening session,” said John D’Angelo, director of the city’s Arts and Culture Department. “We are here to listen to you the public express comments, concerns and ideas … and possibilities of what Century II may be like.”
The Arts Council, Go Wichita, Music Theatre of Wichita, the Wichita Symphony and Wichita Grand Opera asked the city for a performing arts assessment while it also was assessing its convention needs.
The three proposals so far: Leave the convention center as is, renovate Century II, or build a new convention center and performing arts center and redevelop the Century II site.
“Our opera, symphony and music theater are all organizations that uniquely create events here,” said Wayne Bryan, producing artistic director of Music Theatre. “When Century II performing arts and convention center was built, they built in a paint shop, carpenter’s shop, rehearsal rooms – the kinds of things that back in the ’60s were much more common because cities had more of this homegrown stuff. Now that is not so common.”
Janet Roberts, who said she was a lifelong resident of Wichita, said she loves Century II.
“You look at anything about Wichita, the very first thing you see is the roof of Century II,” she said. “To me, it symbolizes Wichita and everything good about Wichita. I hope this building is not torn down.”