As we prepare to usher in the New Year, it might be handy to know what to expect.
From March Madness to the McConnell Air Show, here are 10 things to watch for in Wichita in 2018.
1. Jobs, jobs, jobs
Spirit AeroSystems expects to hire 800 of 1,000 new employees this year as a part of its $1 billion Wichita plant expansion. The majority of the positions will be for sheet metal mechanics, composite technicians and CNC machine operators. Bombardier Business Aircraft also plans to hire 100 more employees during the latter half of 2018 to assist with work on Global 5000 business jets that was transferred to Wichita. Dold Foods is set to hire more than 380 people starting in the spring after the completion of its 156,000-square-foot expansion to add pre-cooked bacon products.
2. March Madness here at home
Filling out a bracket this March may be a little more fun knowing that first- and second-round games of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship will be held at Intrust Bank Arena on March 15 and 17. Thousands of fans will flood Wichita. Visit Wichita estimates $10 million in direct spending for that weekend. Regular tickets for the games are sold out; you can still get Official NCAA Fan Experience packages starting at $265 a person at www.intrustbankarena.com/ncaa. You might also be able to snag tickets through an official NCAA ticket exchange in February. But you don’t need a ticket to enjoy the festivities. A three-day fan fest is planned with food, drink, music and games somewhere near the arena.
3. Advanced Learning Library opening
The new Advanced Learning Library in downtown Wichita is scheduled to open sometime in the spring of 2018; an official date hasn’t been set. The $33 million high-tech facility, at Second Street and McLean Boulevard, will replace the aging Central Library next to Century II. The new library will feature a variety of upgrades, including about 100 computers, gigabit-bandwidth internet service, a Reverie Coffee Roasters cafe, a genealogy pavilion, an auditorium, and more space dedicated for children and teens.
4. Race for governor
Kansans will chose a governor next November, after months of campaigning and TV ads. The field of candidates is vast, with more than 20 Republicans, Democrats and independents aiming to compete for the seat now held by Sam Brownback. Both Republican and Democratic voters will cast ballots for governor in August primaries – Democrats for the first time in 20 years.
5. The new Mark Arts building
Wichita’s Mark Arts will open its new $4.5 million building in 2018 with a members-only unveiling Friday, Jan. 5, and a community open house from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 6. The building, 1307 N. Rock Rd., houses nine studios. It will have a culinary arts studio and offer new cooking workshops, as well as new digital arts courses alongside the usual class offerings. The location will have three spaces available for rent – the 5,000 square-foot gallery, the 5,800-square-foot Great Hall and the 1,050-square-foot youth gallery. Visit www.markartsks.com for the full 2018 class listings and exhibition information.
6. Nico’s title fight
Nico Hernandez’ first championship fight, originally scheduled for Dec. 2, 2017, will now take place at 6 p.m. Feb. 10 at Hartman Arena. Hernandez, a 2016 Olympic bronze medalist, will fight Hungarian flyweight champion Jozsef Ajtai for the vacant Americas flyweight title. Hernandez is 3-0 in his professional career, with 2 KOs. Tickets start $17 and are available at www.hartmanarena.com or by calling Ticketmaster at 1-800-745-3000.
7. 14-screen AMC theater opening
The old Dickinson Northrock 14 will reopen in the first quarter of the year as a top-of-the-line 14-screen theater owned by AMC Theaters. The theater, 3151 N. Penstemon, will include one Dolby Cinema screen theater, equipped with reclining chairs that pulsate with the action of the movie, moving audio and high-performance imaging. The new theater will also have an AMC MacGuffins Bar serving cocktails, beers and wines and a kitchen serving everything from personal pizzas to chicken tenders.
8. McConnell air show and Doc visit
After a six-year break, McConnell Air Force Base is set to host its annual air show again on Sept. 8 and 9. “Frontiers in Flight” will be a tribute to the the past and future of aviation in Wichita and at McConnell. It will feature the Air Force’s aerial demonstration team, the Thunderbirds. One of the last two flyable B-29 bombers from World War II, “Doc,” will also make an appearance.
9. More development at K-96 and Greenwich
The K-96 and Greenwich area was one of the big places to watch in 2017, and it will be no different in 2018. Wichita Destination Developers is still working on a deal to create the first DRIV Golf Lounge & Brewhouse – a concept similar to the popular Topgolf nationally – for its 100-acre development that includes Greenwich Place and the Wichita Sports Forum. There are still more stores and restaurants coming to that area and others around it, including the first east-side Texas Roadhouse opening just south of K-96 along Greenwich in February.
10. Baseball news, maybe?
Mayor Jeff Longwell said in early December that Wichita could be within a couple months of landing a Major League affiliated baseball team to occupy a planned new ball park at the site of Lawrence-Dumont Stadium. The city has been without an MLB farm team since the Wranglers, a Kansas City Royals affiliate, left Wichita for Arkansas in 2007. The Wingnuts, the current tenant team at Lawrence-Dumont, are part of an independent league not affiliated with a major-league franchise. It would take the city about 18 months to build a new stadium, so the earliest a new team could take the field would be 2020, Longwell said.
Contributing: Suzanne Perez Tobias, Carrie Rengers and Dion Lefler