For Wichitans, another turn of the calendar will mean several exciting developments on the homefront:
A new airport terminal. More places to hoist a brew. A long-awaited Costco store. Big-name concerts, heart-pounding sports and even a place to charge your electric car.
Here are some notable events to expect in 2015:
▪ Wichita’s airport will get a new terminal, a new parking garage and a new name. The $200 million terminal at Wichita Mid-Continent Airport – to be called the Dwight D. Eisenhower National Airport once the terminal opens – is taking shape and on track for a March or April opening.
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The new airport, which will serve millions of passengers each year, is designed to highlight the city’s aviation history, with a curvilinear roof and other features that evoke the motion of flight. It will feature 12 jetways, an all-new baggage system, larger security checkpoints, retail stores and restaurants, including the River City Brewing Co. and an Air Capital Bar overlooking the airfield.
▪ The faces of local government could change dramatically this spring, as voters cast ballots for mayor and three City Council spots. A host of mayoral candidates already have emerged, including former mayor Bob Knight and council member Jeff Longwell. Local leaders will face a variety of issues, such as finding a new water supply, repairs to water and sewer infrastructure, the fate of the city’s bus system and continued street maintenance issues.
A new, more conservative majority likely will rule the Sedgwick County Commission. Some commissioners, including incumbent Richard Ranzau and new District 5 commissioner Jim Howell, have pledged to try to reopen the Judge Riddel Boys Ranch, which the county closed in July.
And three of seven positions on the Wichita school board will be up for election in April.
▪ Wichita will get a new police chief in 2015, after longtime Police Chief Norman Williams retired in September. Leaders of minority communities are calling for a diversity of voices to be heard in selecting the next chief, amid ongoing criticism of shootings by police officers in Wichita and elsewhere.
By the end of 2015, Wichita will become one of the largest cities in the country to outfit every police officer with a body camera. Officials have pledged to add 450 cameras to the 60 already deployed, at an estimated cost of $1.5 million.
▪ After years of rumors and speculation, Costco finally will open in Wichita. The chain, which is a direct competitor to Sam’s Club, is building a store on former Beechcraft property at Kellogg and Webb Road. Officials are planning for a late spring or early summer opening.
▪ Tesla Motors will add another electric vehicle charging station in Kansas – this time in Wichita – after a successful station in Hays. The carmaker partnered with Jim Stevens to build a charging station just north of his Applebee’s at 47th and S. Broadway. Initially there will be eight stations to charge Teslas, Stevens said. The company is putting stations from coast to coast, with the goal of a station every 175 to 200 miles.
▪ In the spring developers hope to break ground on the River Vista apartments and mixed-use project on the west bank of the Arkansas River downtown. An agreement between the city and the group, led by George Laham, calls for a 154-unit apartment building and a commercial portion at the northwest corner of First and McLean and could later include a hotel, Laham said.
▪ Botanica’s Chinese Garden of Friendship, whose opening has been delayed a couple of times, is expected to open this summer. Built in honor of Wichita’s sister city in China, Kaifeng, the garden will include two pavilions, a bridge, a pond and stream, several sculptures and a 64-foot-long mural of the Qingming scroll that depicts daily life in Kaifeng during the Song dynasty.
▪ Wichita beer lovers have a lot to look forward to in 2015. At least four new breweries are scheduled to open during the year: Hopping Gnome, on East Douglas near the Donut Whole; Central Standard Brewing, near Douglas and Hydraulic; Bricktown Brewery, at 21st and Tyler; and an east-side Wichita Brewing Co. & Pizzeria, at Central and Woodlawn.
▪ Foodies also have some excitement in store. Greystone, an upscale steakhouse-seafood restaurant, is taking shape in the former Famous Dave’s spot at 21st and Webb. Molino’s Cuisine, the popular Mexican restaurant, will open an east-side location at 37th and Rock.
Wichita will get its first Qdoba Mexican Grill, a build-your-own burrito restaurant going in the former Yen Ching space near Central and Rock. And District Taqueria, an urban taco bar, is a little behind schedule but should open near Douglas and Washington sometime this year.
Love bacon? Mark your calendar for the Midwest Baconfest at Hartman Arena on March 28. The arena decided to host its own bacon festival after noticing the success of similar events elsewhere, which include samples of bacontastic dishes, a bacon queen, bacon T-shirts and bacon song contests.
▪ Several local attractions will mark major anniversaries in 2015.
The Wichita Art Museum turns 80 this year and will host a birthday gala in December. It also will unveil “Storytelling,” a reinstallation of its permanent collection that will celebrate the museum’s histories, mysteries and anecdotes.
Exploration Place, Wichita’s science center and children’s museum, will mark its 15th birthday in April with several events and new exhibits. And 2015 – the centennial anniversary of Clyde Cessna’s first planes in Wichita – also will mark the 25th anniversary of the Kansas Aviation Museum and the 80th anniversary of the museum’s building.
▪ In entertainment news, legendary country star Garth Brooks is expected to bring his “Man Against the Machine” tour to Wichita in 2015. Other highlights on this year’s entertainment agenda include appearances by Fleetwood Mac, the Avett Brothers and Foo Fighters at the Intrust Bank Arena and singer-songwriter Sarah McLachlan at Salina’s Stiefel Theare.
Music Theatre of Wichita’s 2015 season will feature Tim Rice and Elton John’s “Aida,” Disney’s “My Son Pinocchio,” “Billy Elliot,” “Big Fish” and “Hello, Dolly.” In February, March and April, the Theater League of Wichita will bring “Sister Act,” “Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story” and “Chicago.”
At movie theaters, hot tickets will include “Fifty Shades of Grey,” “Jurassic World,” “The Avengers: Age of Ultron,” and around year’s end, the highly anticipated “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.”
▪ In sports, K-State will kick off the new year with its Alamo Bowl matchup against UCLA on Friday. Later this month – Jan. 31 – the Wichita State men’s basketball team will travel to Northern Iowa for what is likely to be a showdown between two ranked teams.
And baseball fans who enjoyed the Kansas City Royals’ World Series run in 2014 might want to mark their calendars for April 6: the team’s opening day game against the Chicago White Sox. WSU’s baseball season opens Feb. 13 at Sam Houston State and opens at home on Feb. 20 against Texas State.
▪ Having a baby in 2015? If it happens after Feb. 19, your child will be born in the Year of the Sheep and, according to the Chinese zodiac, will be kind-hearted, polite, clever and sympathetic. Sheep people also are known for being hard-working, but can be pessimistic and quick to complain.