“The best way to predict the future is to create it…”
Perhaps one of the most defining structures in Wichita, Century II has served as Wichita’s performing arts and convention center for half a century. Its familiar blue dome is a prominent figure on the Wichita skyline, recognizable by all the locals. At just 49 years old, a question has risen surrounding the center: what is to come of its future? Many in the community are wondering.
A Bit of Century II History…
Built in the late 1960s by the design of architect John Hickman, Century II has been a Wichita landmark and architectural icon since its completion in 1969. The performing arts and convention center is located very near the eastern bank of the Arkansas River, and was designed by Hickman in the style of Frank Lloyd Wright. The blue dome of Century II is a distinctive feature of Wichita and has been for nearly five decades. Inspired by Kansas’ landscape, the circular structure features sand-colored pillars and a blue-colored dome in honor of Kansas’ wheat fields and vast sky, respectively.
Century II had basic renovations done in its Concert Hall in August of 2010 in the form of painting, new seats, new carpet and draperies, and a new electrical system. Much of the building remains untouched.
Talks of the Future
For the last eight years, the city has been in talks about the time ahead of Century II, studying the center extensively. The problem the city is facing is this: as Century II gets older, experts fear that if nothing changes, the center will begin to negatively impact the city in the form of lost revenue.
A committee appointed by the mayor has been convened to discuss potential options for Century II. The main discussion being had is whether Century II should be completely demolished and rebuilt or simply renovated.
It’s not an easy conversation to be had, especially with Wichita residents weighing in. There appear to be two sides to the spectrum; some Wichitans believe Century II has reached the end of its lifespan and needs to be replaced, while others say the performing arts and convention center is too much of a landmark to be torn down.
The only thing that doesn’t seem to be up for debate is the fact that something does need to be done. Century II is facing the deficits time brings upon every infrastructure. The building is not comparable to modern standards and has its fair share of maintenance issues and other impairments from an out-of-date design.
One suggestion has been to keep the current building but modernize it. It has been calculated that, to properly update Century II, the renovations would cost around $272 million. To raze the building and start over would cost nearly $500 million.
The city is being careful to keep the public’s opinion in mind, as “this is an emotional issue.” Century II’s blue dome is not something Wichitans will let go lightly, it seems. It’s going to take serious thought and consideration before a decision is made regarding the future of the building. All possibilities are being looked at, and the city will choose what’s best for Wichita and its residents. For now, what’s best remains in the dark. Expect more developments later this year and early next year!