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Questions still unanswered after group shares extravagant plans for Century II

Published: Feb. 21, 2020 at 10:21 PM CST
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Feb. 28, 2020

Questions about a group's extravagant plans for the future of Century II remain unanswered.

The company behind the plan still isn't giving details on how it would get done or paid for as it provides what it says is a new proposal.

The group wants to add a Ferris wheel, a 40-story hotel, an indoor/outdoor water park, Lego Land, indoor and outdoor softball fields, and more.

Eyewitness News first heard plans relating to Century II's future last week, including $1.5 billion to repurpose the historic building.

Eyewitness News learned the company, Penumbra International, LLC, was established in Kansas about a month ago

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For a second time Friday, Eyewitness News sat down with Wichita businessman Brian McHughes, the spokesperson for the proposed plan.

McHughes says he can't answer most of our questions because of contractual agreements and personal preference.

"None of (the investors) wanted to be disclosed or put their name out there yet," he says.

Despite details on how the plan will unfold remaining vague, McHughes says he feels like the group's ideas for Century II are clear. He did respond to the question of what he would say to someone who questions whether the proposal is legitimate.

"Well, I'd say you know, the proof is in the pudding, as they say," McHughes says. "Number one, how does it affect you as a taxpayer? It doesn't, other than having some new venue to go to. It's not financed, so it's again, solid. And also, these are experienced developers and collaborators and engineers and everybody's in. That's a high degree of professionalism."

Eyewitness News called some of the bigger developers in the are to see if they've heard of McHughes or Penumbra International, LLC, the company he represents. All of them said they don't know who he is.

McHughes says he'll let us know when he can release more information.

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Feb. 21, 2020

A plan proposed for the future of Century II comes with more questions than answers for the group that says it's offering $1.5 billion to repurpose the historic building.

The group of private investors proposing the plan is called Penumbra International, LLC. The group says its proposal won't take any tax dollars from the public and includes an aerospace museum, an observation Ferris wheel, a 40-story convention hotel, an aquarium, and more.

Eyewitness News learned Penumbra International, LLC was established in Kansas about three weeks ago.

Friday, Eyewitness News sat down with Wichita businessman Brian McHughes, the spokesperson for the proposed plan. As of Friday night, we don't know who the investors are in the group.

That's one of the questions we asked McHughes Friday. He refused to answer questions for now, saying we will find out more at a later date.

McHughes, a native Wichitan, says Penumbra's plan has been in the works for about a year. He says the group already has the $1.5 billion it needs to change Century II into an aquarium, hotel, aerospace museum with indoor sporting and entertainment options.

"It's basically, build on what we have," McHughes says. And also, there's an opportunity when they're tearing down that building and what can be different. Let's think outside the box and then it just blossoms from there."

Wichita Mayor Brandon Whipple and Wichita City Council Member Brandon Johnson say they were never told about the proposed project.

"It was interesting to hear that there was $1.5 billion that was already kind of solidified for a plan," Johnson says "I'm interested to learn more about it. It hasn't been officially presented to the city, we all found out about this all at the same time. So I'm interested to learn more. And there's a lot of questions that need to be asked and answered."

McHughes says the group kept their proposed plan from city officials because Wichitans are their priority.

"We believe since this is not a taxpayer-funded project. The city is secondary and and not to put anybody in a second position, but we really care about what the Wichitans want and need."

Among those skeptical about the group's plans for Century II's future is Celeste Racette who leads the "Save Century II" effort. She does hope Penumbra can deliver on its plan to save the historic building.

"So, we're excited about it, though there's a lot of unknowns," she says. "We don't know who the principles are, and we don't know really what they're planning to do yet. There's too many unknowns. But, it's somewhat exciting and it's giving Riverfront Legacy some true competition."

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