Rebuild or remodel?: City to consider future of Century II

WICHITA, Kan. Rebuild or remodel? That's the question that comes up in debates concerning Century II and its future in downtown Wichita.

The Century II Citizens Advisory Committee has been working for nearly a year toward guiding the city to a final decision.

On a tour of the historic venue Thursday, it took our crew almost two hours to walk through the facility. Parts of the building are inaccessible, including areas in the roof where there's asbestos, leaks and duct tape holding certain pieces together.

The layout inside the building is also outdated and it brings up the question of what makes more sense financially: building a new facility or renovating the current one.

The round building that adds to the unique view of the downtown Wichita skyline opened in 1969. It's a 50-year history for the venue that once was a state-of-the-art facility.

Now it lags far behind modern facilities in nearly every area.

"In a modern facility, you would have space where you could sit and eat, where you could get a better level of service than what we can provide because of the dimensions of our facility," says Wichita Director of Arts and Cultural Services, John D'Angelo, talking about the pre-event space around the concert hall.

This is just one item on a long list of shortcomings for Century II. This list also includes a lack of meeting rooms, outdated dressing rooms, bathrooms and concession areas, eroding stairs and failing elevators.

"It's hard to predict when they're going to fail, but when they fail, they fail," D'Angelo says.

D'Angelo says the space at Century II barely meets ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) requirements and the lack of aisles creates a safety concern.

"It is not an ideal situation that if you had to exit the facility quickly, yes, you'd have to have orderly fashion to do that. This makes it a little more difficult," he says.

On Thursday's tour, D'Angelo took our crew to the enter of the building, which has a lot to do with Century II's iconic blue roof, Many want to keep that intact.

D'Angelo says it's possible to fit a new performing arts hall in the space of the current exhibition hall.

"But then what do you do withe the rest of the space?" he says. "That's what's hard for people to kind of rationalize."

D'Angelo says the decision to either rebuild or renovate Century II must be made soon to keep Wichita competitive. He says the longer that decision is put off, the more opportunities Wichita misses that could benefit the city, both financially and from a quality-of-life perspective.

When it comes to cost, D'Angelo says most research shows renovation would cost more than building a new facility, but both are expensive, possibly exceeding $200 million.