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Century II supporters say options for future are bright for downtown Wichita

Published: Sep. 12, 2017 at 9:23 AM CDT
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Update Wednesday (Sept. 13):

Tuesday night, the Wichita City Council listened to research and recommendations to take into consideration as it moves forward with deciding the future of one of the city's most iconic buildings.

The debate over Century II's future boils down to two primary options: renovate or rebuild. Tuesday, Wichita City Manager Robert Layton offered his recommendations to the council, suggesting they keep and renovate the current building.

Wednesday, Eyewitness News sought further reaction, including input from the artistic director of Music Theatre of Wichita, which uses Century II for its programs every summer.

People who spoke with Eyewitness News Wednesday recognize Century II's place as an iconic building in Wichita, but understand the old convention center needs to be renovated to attract more people.

Either way, supporters of Century II say it's a win for downtown Wichita.

"It's iconic. When they had the George Clooney movie, "Up in the Air," and he was an executive who traveled to different places in the country to fire executives, the shot of Wichita was the blue roof of Century II," says Music Theatre of Wichita Artistic Director Wayne Bryan.

With Tuesday night's workshop, the Wichita City Council is starting to talk about what to do with the Century II.

"We would be happy to (work) in a new space if that was available, but we've always been very happy in Century II as well," Bryan says. "So, the fact that they see the value in the building, but want to make it come up to the standards a vitalized downtown deserves, is very encouraging to us."

With the Music Theatre of Wichita, Bryan has used space in Century II since 1972.

He says either option (rebuilding or renovating) is good for downtown Wichita and will help draw more people to the area.

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Renovate or rebuild? That's the debate over one of Wichita's most iconic buildings.

At a special workshop Tuesday, the Wichita City Council heard two hours' worth of research and recommendations to take into consideration as it moves forward in deciding the future of Century II.

The council for the first time Tuesday night heard some possible plans for Century II's future.

Four "schemes" were presented to the council, the first two of which would keep and renovate the existing building with scheme two adding a new building for performing arts.

Schemes three and four would completely rebuild Century II, a plan that has gained a lot of attention in recent months.

"We've heard the community, obviously has embraced the round building, and the significance of it and the historic features of it. And if that's the direction we go, let's just let the community decide that," Wichita Mayor Jeff Longwell says.

Wichita City Manager Robert Layton offered his recommendations to the council, suggesting they keep and renovate the current building.

"...I think it's time that we embrace this facility, but recognize that it needs to be modernized," Layton says. "That it has to not just be representative of the past, but it has to represent the needs of today and of the future."

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