We gathered eight influential and knowledgeable Wichitans to answer a few questions about Century II so we can see the spectrum of ideas and opinions.
IS IT TIME TO LET GO OF CENTURY II?
Built in the style of legendary architect Frank Lloyd Wright, Century II has been a Wichita landmark for nearly sixty years. Its sand-colored pillars represent the vast, Kansas wheat fields, and the now-iconic blue dome represents the expansive sky.
While it's an architectural icon, many believe Century II's useful lifespan has come to an end, and it should be heavily renovated — or replaced completely — with a new performing arts and convention center.
Others disagree, citing the building's artistic design, its status as a Wichita landmark and the hefty cost of a new building.
Appointed by the mayor, a special committee is evaluating various options for Century II. The committee will likely start discussions on the performing arts and convention center later this year or early next year.
With the debate set to go on for the foreseeable future, we gathered eight influential and knowledgeable Wichitans to answer a few questions about Century II, so we can see the spectrum of opinions on the topic.
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WHAT DOES THE FUTURE HOLD?
Century II has long dominated headlines and heated social media discussions for a reason. In many ways, the issue has become a proxy of Wichita's overall discussions about progress, history and how we fund public projects.
Some see the cost of doing nothing as outweighing the hard monetary cost of renovating or building new. Others see the cost of moving forward as losing a piece of our culture and history.
We gathered some numbers on Century II so you can weigh the costs, benefits and facts for yourself.
CENTURY II BY THE NUMBERS
The year Century II was completed
The number of seats in the Century II Concert Hall
The square footage of the Expo Hall
The number of upcoming events being held at Century II, according to Visit Wichita
The estimated number of national events Wichita would have an opportunity to compete for if it updates the convention center, according to research commissioned by Visit Wichita Page 8 in city presentation
The year during which Century II began operating at an operational deficit Page 66 in city presentation
The amount the city paid for a study on the future of Century II, according to reports from 2017.
The percentage of survey respondents who believe there is a need for a new or renovated performance arts center in Wichita page 16 in city presentation
The estimated cost of updating the current facility without adding any additional space or parking, which would not bring it up to national standards page 51 in city presentation
The estimated cost of razing Century II and starting over, adding space for an urban park and additional parking page 51 in city presentation
The estimated annual economic output a new building would generate page 36 in city presentation
The estimated amount of new city and county tax revenue a new building would generate page 36 in city presentation
ABOUT OUR PARTICIPANTS:
SUSIE SANTO is the president and CEO of Visit Wichita. In that role, she has conducted research about the needs of a modern performing arts and convention center to find out the strengths and weaknesses of Century II.
BRANDON JOHNSON is the Wichita City Council member for District I. He doesn't have any official ties to Century II, but has attended events at the performing arts center. As a council member, he will be a part of making decisions regarding the future of the building.
DEAN BRADLEY co-owns the architecture firm Platt, Adams, Bradley & Associates. While in school at Kansas State University, Bradley says he was assigned to paint watercolors of a landscape in Wichita. He picked Century II, which was under construction at the time, helping endear him to the building and the area.
JENNIFER RYGG is the owner of Rygg Design. She's also on the mayor's Century II committee, which is assigned to research the building and make an assessment about its effectiveness as a performing arts and convention center.
BEN HUTTON is the CEO of Hutton. He's not connected to Century II officially, but has attended many events at the performing arts and convention center. He led the 2017 Quality of Place initiative for the Wichita Regional Chamber of Commerce.
ARLEIGH McCORMICK is the marketing and public relations manager for the Wichita Symphony Orchestra, one of Century II's performing arts tenants. McCormick has been close to the performing arts and convention center since she was in elementary school, having competed in dance competitions, performing in youth orchestras and performing cello in the Wichita Symphony Orchestra.
BOB WEEKS is a writer for the Voice For Liberty, a blog advocating limited government and individual liberties in Wichita. Apart from being a lifelong Wichitan, Weeks doesn't have any formal connections to Century II.
JOHN D'ANGELO is the arts and cultural services director for the City of Wichita. In that role, D'Angelo helps manage the performing arts and convention center.
Do you have some ideas and opinions regarding Century II? Share them with us, and start a conversation online.