Century II turns 50, and time is running out to weigh in on its future

Tuesday may be one of your last chances to tell the city what you’d like to see for the future of Century II.

The city will celebrate Century II’s 50th anniversary next week, as discussions continue about what to do with the iconic downtown dome.

At that “birthday party,” scheduled from 5-7 p.m. Tuesday in Exhibition Hall, there will be “information stations” with surveys and other forms to give your input.

A volunteer committee has been studying Century II for the last eleven months — and it intends to present a recommendation to the City Council by the end of February if all goes well, according to Mary Beth Jarvis, chairwoman of the committee. Jarvis is the President and CEO of Wichita Festivals.

The city itself has studied the issue since at least 2010, and it has hired multiple consultants to perform studies on Century II’s future in the past decade.

The financial figures for the different scenarios are different now than when the city most recently published cost estimates in 2017.

Then, the city said it could cost roughly $272 million to renovate Century II and roughly $492 million to raze and rebuild.

Those figures are no longer an accurate reflection of reality, Jarvis said, as those renovate scenarios assumed a renovated Century II would host both the performing arts and conventions.

“Nothing is the same as when those scenarios were published,” she said. “They are no longer considering scenarios that would assume conventions can go in the pie pieces of the round building.”

The Century II Citizens Committee is strictly studying a performing-arts solution. Another group is studying a solution for conventions.

The current thinking appears to be that conventions and the performing arts should not operate out of the same building anymore.

The recommendation Jarvis’ committee will make will be strictly for a performing-arts venue, she said.

If the current Century II building were renovated for the performing arts solely, the existing building is roughly 2.5 times larger than what is needed, according to Jarvis.

“In case anyone is surprised there are places to put (a new facility) if you decide to build new, it doesn’t have to be as big as the current round building of Century II,” she said. “That’s one of the pieces of input we’ll be looking for on Tuesday: Let’s imagine we remodel a portion of Century II for performing-arts usage. Do folks have suggestions about what do we then do with the other 60 percent of the space?”

Various “experts and resources that had studied Century II” in the past are working on refining potential renovation scenarios, Jarvis said — ones that don’t assume conventions are also going to be held in the building.

The committee will continue to gather public feedback for “a couple more weeks” before presenting its recommendation to the City Council — “contingent upon the experts helping to round out a remodel scenario that ... achieves more of our goals,” Jarvis said.

Jarvis said her committee has presented in front of 1,500 Wichitans in person and interacted with 2,500 more via electronic surveys and other correspondence.

At the event Tuesday, there will be a celebration of Century II’s history, as well as cake.

If you can’t attend Tuesday night but still want to provide feedback, visit www.centuryiicitizenscommittee.com or email centuryii@wichita.gov.

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Matt Riedl covers arts and entertainment news for the Wichita Eagle and has done so since 2015. He maintains the Keeper of the Plans blog on Facebook, dedicated to keeping Wichitans abreast of all things fun.