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Civic Affairs in WICHITA, Kansas, USA
 
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Occasional News & Topics in Community Affairs
Copyright 2010-2016 by Richard Harris*

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GENERAL
 

ECONOMY
TRANSPORTATION
DOWNTOWN
LIVING

LIVING in WICHITA

NOTE: Except as noted, these comments are the opinions, perceptions or recollections of the author. No guarantee of accuracy is made; however a reasonable effort has been made to realistically reflect the author's life-long familiarity and involvement with the community.


Following are some notable details about Wichita's...

  • LIFE
    (basic Wichita lifestyle and living conditions)

  • EDUCATION
    (schools, libraries, museums)

  • AESTHETICS, ARTS & CULTURE
    (music, art, theater, media)

  • RECREATION & CELEBRATION
    (public & private venues, including civic centers, arenas, stadiums, hotel & motel convention /meeting facilities, parks, sports complexes, golf courses and amusement venues and districts.
...with links to...

WICHITA LIFE:

Most Wichitans have a comparatively simple lifestyle, compared to the fast pace and drama of America's East and West Coasts -- and Wichitans generally live rather basic, working-class lives, in safe, comfortable, single-family houses -- at a fraction of the cost of comparable accommodations on the coasts.

Though many Wichitans live in apartments, condominums, small houses or mobile homes, most Wichitans enjoy a large house, large grassy yard with trees, garage and private drive.

Air-conditioning is important in summer, and heating is truly essential in winter. Winds are strong and storms are not rare. But many days are sunny and mild -- especially in spring and fall.

Owing to a low population density, and good streets and highways providing smooth connections between home and work, commuting to work is seldom more than a 20-minute drive in rush-hour traffic, and often half that. Shopping ranges from corner convenience stores to drive-up strip malls to walk-in regional malls, and a newly revived downtown.

But life is more than driving, shopping, and going home. Here are some details on other aspects of life in Wichita:



EDUCATION:
Wichitans come in a wide range of education -- from a broad working-class group of high-school dropouts (as the state's major urban center, it has one of Kansas' highest dropout rates), to nationally-noted academics and professionals with doctoral degrees.

Several figures of national prominence in their field are alumni of Wichita's schools, colleges and universities, including (as a small sample), former U.S. Defense Secretary (under Presidents G.W. Bush & B. Obama) Robert Gates, Broadway and Metropolitan Opera star Karla Burns, TV star Don Johnson, football Heisman Trophy winner Barry Sanders, the world's first three-minute-mile runner, Jim Ryan, and numerous leaders in aviation.

This EDUCATION section details Wichita's...:

SCHOOLS & COLLEGES:

The city is served by a city-wide public school system, several private schools, local campuses of three neighboring community colleges (from Butler and Cowley County, and Hutchinson), two private universities (Newman and Friends), a state university (Wichita State), and a medical college of another state university (KU Med).

Several additional private, commercial colleges and universities also operate in the area, as well, along with a public vocational college. Finally, the area is also a major center of aviation research and training.

Details follow:


Elementary & Secondary Education:

Wichita's public schools face the burden of educating a complex urban population -- while dependent upon state funding that requires constant funding battles with rural and small-town schools which have greater clout in the state capital. The Koch-guided Brownback administration and state legislature have begun drastic cuts to education, state-wide, and Wichita has been among the districts hardest hit.

The Kansas Supreme Court, in early 2016, threatened an indefinite shutdown of all Kansas public schools, starting in mid-summer, if the Governor and Legislature continue to fail to fund the state's schools "adequately" and "equitably" -- as required by the state constitution. (UPDATE: May 27, 2016, the Kansas Supreme Court, today, ruled the state's latest school-funding formula unconstitutional, rejecting it because it unfairly disadvantaged children in urban districts, particularly Wichita.)

Further, owing to the racial bias, economic snobbery, and libertarian and religious-conservative attitudes of much of the community, Wichita's public schools face stiff competition from a large array of "white flight" private schools who absorb many of the more-fortunate, easier- to-educate students in the district, leaving the Wichita Public Schools struggling with the most needy students.

Those who prefer their children to be raised in "lily white" schools, under strict moral codes, find ample opportunity (if they are sufficiently well-off) in Wichita's dozens of church and "elite" schools. Local programs also support "home schooling."

However, in recent years, the Wichita Public Schools (driven largely by the Bush/Obama "No Child Left Behind" programs, and in a desperate need to recruit more upscale students), have sharply improved their teachers, schools, and graduation rates, and radically expanded the quality of educational offerings.

This includes the elite, globally-renowned "International Baccalaureate" program for dedicated, high-performing students. The Wichita Public Schools also include "magnet schools" providing specialized education in specific fields, including science and technology, peforming arts and others, as well as a more rigid "traditional" magnet school.


For much more detail on Wichita's schools,
see the School District section,
on this site's GENERAL page.



Vocational Education:

Like most places in the U.S., Wichita struggles with its vocational education programs. A lack of community support led to the Wichita Public Schools spinning-off their "Wichita Area Vocational/Technical School" (WAVTS) as a separate, independent entity -- Wichita Area Technical College (WATC). WATC offers a wide range of technical and industrial education -- chiefly focused on serving the area's aircraft factories. Lacking enthusiastic public funding, WATC programs are quite expensive -- more like private schools than a public institution.

Several private vocational colleges are available in the Wichita area, a few of long standing. Of particular note is Wichita Technical Institute (WTI), in southwest Wichita -- offering training in various technologies (particularly electrical, electronics and computers) and health care (chiefly nursing).

However, as in most other places, nationwide, most of Wichita's private vocational colleges have earned bad reputations for inadquate education, high costs, unreasonably strict rules, high failure rates, and low student career-success rates -- often saddling students with several thousands (even tens of thousands) of dollars of debt, without the education and certification adequate to earn their way out of that debt.

And similiar accusations have also been leveled at the area's public colleges and university, as well. Of course, in Wichita, as elsewhere nationwide, there are no performance standards for college teaching, and no direct, substantial consequences for underperforming college educators, nor their underperforming colleges or universities.


Community Colleges:

Community colleges of neighboring communities
(Cowley County, Butler County, Hutchinson)
all have Wichita-area campuses, offering both vocational certification courses and traditional collegiate degree programs.

Their vocational programs, depending upon college, include industrial & trades skills — such as automotive, general mechanical, plumbing, electrical, and electronics — and certificate or degree training in computers, nursing, retailing and food-service. Programs range from one-year certificates to two-year Associate's degrees -- commonly Associate of Applied Science (AAS) and Associate of Science (AS) degrees.

In addition to vocational training, the three area community colleges offer a wide range of curricula, including Associate of Arts (AA) and Associate of Science (AS) degrees in the full range of classical studies (liberal arts and sciences) and occupations (business, heatlhcare, technical and commercial).

Costs for attending these "junior" colleges can be far less than at the four-year universities. Also, class sizes are smaller and personal attention is easer to get.

The State of Kansas requires its four-year state universities to largely recognize a two-year degree (Associate of Arts, or Associate of Science), from a Kansas community college, as meeting the core requirements for the first two years of a four-year university (Bachelor's degree) program. This can substantially reduce the costs of a four-year degree. However, Kansas' four-year state universities (including Wichita State) are not consistently reliable partners in that program.


Universities & Other Colleges:

The area's dominant
four-year educational institution is Wichita State University (WSU) -- a 12,000-student, half-square-mile campus in northeast Wichita. Long a capable university across all six colleges (Liberal Arts & Sciences, Business, Engineering, Healthcare, Education and Fine Arts), WSU has long had a national reputation in several areas -- including:

  • Engineering  (graduating some of the biggest names in the U.S. aerospace industry),
  • Entrepreneurship  (one of the first such programs in the U.S.),
  • Forensic Anthropology  (one of the oldest major programs in the U.S.),
  • Speech Therapy  (working with WSU, the nearby former "Institute of Logopedics" -- now "Heartspring" -- was once a world leader in the field), and
  • Opera  (some of New York's Metropolitan Opera stars have been WSU alumni).

However, recent economic pressures, resulting from the libertarian shift of state politics -- under extreme pressure from local billionaires, the Koch brothers (who have long opposed government funding of education) -- have changed WSU radically. Under the Kochs' long-time beneficiary, Kansas Governor Sam Brownback, his Kansas Board of Regents appointed an unusual new president for the University, who quickly began firing and retiring most of WSU's executives, deans and department chairs -- replacing them with people of generally lesser credentials, but greater compliance -- followed by a series of aggressive moves towards support of the Kochs' Libertarian opposition to government-funded education.

The university is now receiving a dwindling level of government support -- only partially offset by Koch donations -- and is under increasing pressure to become a commercial institution. Students are now being exploited commercially, whenever and however possible, and the WSU colleges that produce access to money through college/business partnerships or profitable innovations (the Colleges of Business, Engineering, Healthcare) are given priority over the other WSU colleges (Liberal Arts & Sciences, Education, Fine Arts). Sports are of increasing importance to the Univesity, as well:  Although WSU has national reputations in baseball, basketball and bowling, pressure is on to expand these programs, and others, into commercially profitable operations.

Two mid-sized private universities, Friends University (shown at left) and Newman University -- near each other on Wichita's west side -- provide classical four-year degree programs, and Masters programs, in the liberal arts and sciences, fine arts, business and nursing. Newman is a Catholic university and Friends is a Quaker university, but both are open to all faiths, and to non-religious students, as well. Many Wichita-area students get their occupational training, or advanced degrees, at these institutions. The two universities also coordinate some educational programs or credits with each other, for the convenience of students. Friends is also famed for its music programs, particularly choral and religious music.

The University of Kansas (KU) School of Medicine (UKSM, better known as "KU Med"), based in Kansas City, also has a major Wichita campus (UKSM-W), which now trains physicians and surgeons on campus, and at the city's three large regional hospitals.


Commercial Colleges & Universities

Wichita has a long and checkered history with various private, commercial colleges & universities -- some local, and some operating Wichita campuses from out-of-state headquarters. None have stellar reputations. Among those that have operated here (most of which have disappeared, often with students' money), include:

  • Bryan Institute
  • Wichita Business College
  • ITT Technical Insitute
  • Vatterott College
  • Phoenix University
  • National American University
Also, other regular private colleges in Kansas have operated branch campuses here, but largely like commercial colleges.
  • Baker University
  • Tabor College

Aviation Education:

A unique sub-culture of Wichita-area education is aviation industry training. Wichita is one of the world's leading centers for aircraft manufacturing (locals build most of the Boeing 737 -- the world's most popular jetliner -- and Wichita-based companies have long built most of America's business jets, military trainers, commuter airliners, and light aircraft). Wichita is also home to an Air Force base. Consequently, aviation training is a major industry here. Local colleges provide aviation-related technical, engineering and business courses, certificates and degrees.

WATC's "National Center for Aviation Training" (NCAT), at Jabara Airport, trains aircraft technicians, mechanics and machinists. The world's largest commercial pilot-training and mechanic-training service, FlightSafety International (with campuses around the city) provides specialized advanced training for hundreds of pilots and mechanics, every year, from around the globe -- teaching them to fly and fix the aircraft that Wichita produces. McConnell Air Force Base, too, has a history of training operations, as well, and hosts a branch campus of Florida's noted Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University (ERAU). And basic and advanced civilian pilot training (glider, airplane, and helicopter) is available from commercial operators at several of the 19 Wichita-area airports.



LIBRARIES:

The large, sprawling, modern, three-story Wichita Public Library is Downtown, on Main Street a block south of Douglas -- between the giant, round Century II civic center and the castle-like Wichita / Sedgwick County Historical Museum.

(However, it will soon be replaced with a costly, controversial facility -- less-convienently located northwest of downtown, between the river and McClean Boulevard, near Exploration Place)

The main library includes:

  • A very large selection of books, magazines and newspapers, on every concievable topic, and by every major author, conveniently organized by the Dewey Decimal System (non-fiction books by subject; fiction books by author), with computers and staffers available to help find books.
  • Free computer use and internet access, (on a limited-time, scheduled basis, on several computers), as well as free wi-fi internet access for those with their own devices. Printer access is available for 10 cents a page.
  • Numerous power outlets accommodating patrons' own electronic devices. Free wi-fi (with a password, for those with a library card).
  • Meeting Rooms & Auditorium (rentable): Ranging from small conference rooms to large 150-plus-seat auditorium with digital projector and sound system. The Auditorium is common venue for Library educational programs and many local civic gatherings.
      Special Departments:
    • Childrens' section (3rd floor): A separate childrens' library, supervised by a children's librarian, with child-friendly furniture and surroundings, occasionally with readings or other activities for children.
    • Special Collections archives (basement): Special, old, historic and locally-important books, documents and pictures, and microfilm/microfiche with readers. City Historian is the Special Collections curator, and normally attends the room.
    • Business & Technical section (the whole 2nd floor): Extensive reference books and periodicals on business and technolgy topics, not only the normal books and magazines in such fields, but special resources ranging from business directories, to aircraft reference books, to technical repair guides for vehicles, appliances and electronics, to the latest business-trend books and how-to manuals for technical hobbies, to tax forms (during tax season). Typewriters and computers are free, as available.
    • Art & Music room (3rd floor): A sprawling library of video and music recordings and artwork (mostly prints of paintings), which can be checked out, or enjoyed there. Includes record-players and tape-players available free, with headphones, for listening on-site. Includes educational and entertainment videotapes and discs. Also a good, quiet place to plug in and use your own laptop computer, with wi-fi (ask at art librarian's desk for directions to the right place).
  • Special programs & exhibits: The library staff often offers free public programs on various topics of intellectual and recreational interest -- typically one-hour classes or presentations, or some longer, or multiple-session programs, including limited computer classes. A monthly program guide is available, and scheduled activities are usually posted on the libarary website: wichitalibrary.org.

BRANCH LIBRARIES:

Several branch libraries dot the city in strategic locations, and offer substantial selection of books, magazines and newspapers, free computer use (on a limited-time, scheduled basis) with internet access, usually one or more meeting rooms (rentable), and a childrens' section. Books can be ordered from the main library, and picked up at the branch.

SPECIAL LIBRARIES:

Several special libraries around the city provide added resources, though some are restricted access and/or restricted use. Of particular note are:

  • University Libraries: At Wichita's four local universities, all of them substantial. By far, the greatest is the huge Ablah Library at Wichita State University. It is open to the public, but checking out books or using special resources requires a college ID or -- in some cases -- a Wichita Public Library card.
  • Trade Libraries: The Wichita / Sedgwick County Law Library, downtown, provides lawyers with a very wide array of law books. Some major local companies have their own internal libraries with a broad array of trade-specific information, usually accessible only to employees (and not all of them).
  • Museum libraries: Most local museums have a sizeable collection of books on the museum's subject area. Of particular note is the library at the Kansas Aviation Museum. However, access and use tend to be very limited.


MUSEUMS:

Map of Wichita's "Museums on the River" ...

  • Wichita Art Museum:  the red star in the center.
  • Botanica:  the red dot above (north of) the star
  • Cowtown:  the red dot right (west) of the star
  • Mid-America All-Indian Center:  the red dot below (south of) of the star
  • Exploration Place:  the red dot below (south of) the Indian Center, at 1st St. & McClean Boulevard

Wichita has a remarkable array of museums, from historical, to art, to science and technology, and some with a mix of these. Most have gift shops. Some (particularly Cowtown Museum and Exploration Place) are family-friendly recreational / educational museums. Here are some of the principal local museums:


  • Historical / Archaeological Museums:

    • Museum of World Treasures:
      One of the most spectacular collections of antiquities, archaelogical and pre-historic treasures in the Midwest. From fossils to dinosaur skeletons, to Babylonian figurines, to Egyptian sarchophogi, to Roman coins, to medieval weapons, to handwriting of all the famous royals of Europe, and all the Presidents of the U.S., to war relics and modern treasures. Something for everyone.

    • Wichita / Sedgwick County Historical Museum: (Downtown, in the grand castle-like old City Hall, at Main and William, across the street from the Library and Century II, and a block south of Douglas.)
      This is the area's principal museum, and host to excellent exhibits illustrating the history and culture of Wichita and south-central Kansas. Very inexpensive.

    • Cowtown Museum:
      Exceptionally realistic recreation of early Wichita -- with many of its original buildings: blacksmith's shop, stable, jail, saloon, store, early home, and other places of interest. Character re-enactors and guides, in authentic garb, portray pioneer Wichitans, including cowboys and farmers, a blacksmith, bartender, storekeeper, gentle ladies and saloon gals, and more. Shootouts may happen on short notice. Family-oriented, educational & fun, and a true-to-life disconnect from the modern world. Seasonal. (Northwest of downtown, near Wichita Art Museum and Mid-America All-Indian Center)

    • Mid-America All-Indian Center:
      Small Native American museum and gift shop in large Indian Center, with its auditorium (kiva) for Native American events. Celebrates Wichita's extraordinary diversity of "Indians"-- one of the largest urban concentrations of Native Americans in America. Occasional dances, pow-wows, and other events. Just west of downtown, across the river, behind the towering "Keeper of the Plains" Indian statue at the juncture of the rivers.

    • Anthropology Dept. Museum
      (Wichita State University):

      What the wandering professors and scholars of WSU have brought back from the far corners and remote regions of the world.

  • Science & Technology Museums:

    • Exploration Place:
      (On the west bank of the river, immediately northwest of Downtown, on McClean Boulevard. Odd-looking gray concrete building with sweeping curves.) Exciting, interactive science-and-technology museum, includes many hands-on activities for young and old. Includes such exceptional features as flight simulators and interactive wind-tunnels, planetarium and IMAX dome theater. VERY expensive, but you won't regret it. Come early, stay a long time. Do everythig. Kids will LOVE it.

    • Great Plains Transportation Museum:
      ("The Train Museum")

      (On Douglas, east of downtown, immediately east of the railroad overpass.) Large collection of old, and not-so-old actual locomotives & railroad cars (including some you can climb around in) on the tracks over and near the railroad overpass -- plus a small museum of railroad artifacts. (about $8 for adults). Very occasional visits by trains providing short rides, for a modest price.

    • Kansas Aviation Museum:
      Fairly large museum of Kansas aviation history. Exhibits of several aircraft (including one of the world's largest museum collections of big Boeing jets), especially aircraft built in Kansas. Play room includes a aircraft cabins and cockpits you can climb in, and computer-screen flight-simulators you can "fly." Large exhibits of aircraft models, engines & other aviation memoribilia, in historic old airport terminal. Able-bodied visitors can climb to the control tower for the highest view available of Wichita, McConnell Air Force Base, and their surroundings. Modestly priced (about $7/person). (In far Southeast Wichita, at the end of George Washington Boulevard, next to the air base.)

  • Art Museums:

    • Wichita Art Museum:
      Extensive collection, including exceptional collection of modern and cowboy/western art, by famed artists. Ritzy cafe. Northwest of downtown, near Cowtown and Mid-America All-Indian Center)

    • Mark Arts (Mary R. Koch Center for the Arts):
      Extensive collection, including exceptional collection of modern art. Art classes are taught here. On far east side, on Central Ave. near Webb Road.

    • Ulrich Museum of Art sculpture exhibits
      (Wichita State University):

      University's art museum. Surrounding campus is covered with dozens of great sculptures by the most famous sculptors of modern times: Rodin, Miro, etc. -- one of the most spectacular sculpture collections in any American city. NorthEast/Central Wichita, just north of 17th, two blocks east of Hillside.
       

    • CityArts:
      Official city cultural administration building, with tiny exhibit space used to showcase local art and artists -- particularly those who patronize the Center and its classes. In Old Town next to Warren Theater, just north of 2nd St., just west of the rail overpass.




    AESTHETICS, ARTS & CULTURAL AFFAIRS:

    The rural/industrial roots of Wichita shape its dominant tastes, but its history of wealth has also brought access to "fine arts" as well.

    Both country/western and rock'n'roll music are popular here, with big-name performers in country music making Wichita a routine stop. Most major rock stars have performed here, as well, though not always at their peak. Pop, folk, blues, and bluegrass music get substantial attention here, as well. Local performers have become national stars (notably jazz sax pioneer Charlie "Bird" Parker, c/w star Martina McBride, "Eagles" guitarist Joe Walsh). Wichita is birthplace of the electric guitar and (by some acconts) the "fuzz box."

    On the more elegant end of the entertainment spectrum, Wichita has one of the most sophisticated arrays of fine music, dance and theater resources, of any mid-sized, midwestern city -- including classical music (with long-standing symphony orchestra, ballet and opera companies, often attracting or spawning national talent, like Wichita-bred Metropolitan Opera stars Samuel Ramey and Karla Burns), backed by nationally renowned music programs at two local universities.

    The Wichita Symphony Orchestra often hosts famous performers, as do the Wichita Grand Opera, Music Theater of Wichita, and Wichita Ballet -- all of whom have produced stars on the national stage, as has Wichita State University's school of music.

    The Wichita area has a wide range of theaters (motion picture and stage), and is home to an exceptional wealth of museums (art, culture, history, science, aviation, sports, youth, and more) -- some of them achieving national notoriety.

    Three major regional art museums are here, and Wichita State University is home to one of the nation's leading collections of outdoor sculpture, crafted by world-famous sculptors (Miro', Nevelson, Oldenburg, Rodin, etc.). (For more on the local art museums, see the MUSEUMS subsection, at the end of the EDUCATION section, immediately above.)

    An aggressive "historic preservation" effort, starting in the 1970s, has restored and revived many elegant buildings and homes, some of them a century old or more -- particularly including the downtown area, (now being massively renovated), and older districts and neighborhoods east, west and north of downtown.

    CityArts -- a department of City government -- provides various cultural opportunities, events and classes. A week-long spring festival (RiverFest) is popular, as are the local Rennaissance Fair, book fairs, monthly art-gallery "crawls," and a seasonal "Farm & Art Market." The local library system includes several branches, with various educational and cultural programs.

    As the major media hub for most of Kansas, Wichita has TV stations for all the major broadcast networks -- including CBS, NBC, ABC, PBS, Fox, Univision and WB -- with cable and satellite TV providers, and low-power stations, offering hundreds more channels.

    Most of Western Kansas watches the "Kansas State Network," a Wichita-based network of TV stations (KSN-W / NBC, Ch.3 in Wichita), or watches KWCH-TV (CBS, Ch.12) and KPTS-TV (PBS, Ch.8) -- both based in Wichita, but broadcasting from more-centrally located Hutchinson. Local ABC affiliate KAKE-TV (ABC, Ch.10) is a popular local station, and several low-power stations operate here as well.

    Over a dozen area radio stations provide almost every kind of music imaginable, from country to jazz, hard rock to gospel, foreign to folk, opera to hip-hop, as well as news and talk radio. The area supports several newspapers and a few magazines.
     



    RECREATION & CELEBRATION:

    Wichita has a modest but substantial array of recreational opportunities, and occasions and venues for celebrations, parades and parties. (Note: For music, stage and the arts, see the previous section: AESTHETICS, ARTS & CULTURAL AFFAIRS:; for museums and libraries, see, see the previous section: EDUCATION:). Wichita recreational sites include civic centers, arenas, stadiums, hotel & motel convention / meeting sites, parks, sports complexes, golf courses, recreation / celebration venues, and amusement facilities.


    PUBLIC & PRIVATE VENUES:
    Wichita has a rich array of public and private venues, including public and private arenas, entertainment & convention centers, and sports venues.

    For downtown sites, the popular Delano shopping/dining district is right across the Douglas river bridge to the east, and Old Town shopping/dining/party district is a mile east, or less.
    Both areas are accessible by a free late-night trolley bus that makes the rounds downtown. Museums are all around the area. Century II is adjacent, with the Intrust Bank Arena in walking distance, about a half-mile away to the east.

    Wichita's public & private venues include, in particular:



    • Century II
      civic complex

      (West edge of Downtown, just west of Main Street on Douglas, at the river; identifiable by its huge, round, blue-domed main building; another brown rectangular building is attached to the south.)

      Century II is the city's main venue, for almost any large event. This massive complex includes huge exhibition halls, auditorium, concert hall, and meeting rooms small and large. Extensive metered parking, and large free parking lot a half-block to the south. Attached to the Hyatt Regency hotel (see below), and across the street from the Drury/Broadview Hotel (see below), it offers a spectacular array of meeting and event accommodations. Often the site of multiple simultaneous events.

      For various reasons, political leaders are considering demolishing it.



    • The Cotillion

      (far West Wichita, at 11120 West Kellogg, west of Maize Road).
      An old, large, domed ballroom and banquet hall, popular for small concerts, and for very large meetings and parties. Adequate parking, but far from any other facilities or resources.



    • Arenas:

      • Intrust Bank Arena
        (southeast downtown, near the tracks, at Waterman, a block south of Douglas on St. Francis.)
        The city's controversial, new, main arena -- in Huge fancy building, but with steep interior seating bowl, and extremely cramped seating (people with acrophobia or claustrophobia often hate it). Access and parking situtation is disastrous: It's difficult to locate, and reach, then you must park in a tiny adjacent lot, or in parking garage across the street, or (more likely) on the surrounding streets and pricey private parking lots (fiercely policed), or on the other side of the long railroad tracks (a troubling location). Most big-name acts prefer this facility because it can pack a lot of people in -- but patrons generally hate it. Was intended to replace the old Sedgwick County Arena, north of the city, but has had many shortcomings and issues, owing to decisions by City Council and County Commission, and their assigned operatives.

      • Hartman Arena
        (North of Wichita, in adjacent Park City, on the west side of I-135, across from the old Sedwick County Arena), A large private arena, used for many concerts, school graduations, sports events and other events. Identifiable by a large wind turbine behind the building.

      • Koch Arena (northeast Wichita, 21st and Hillside)
        Wichita State University's round, domed arena, often called "the Roundhouse" -- or even by its original name "Henry Levitt Arena" -- this is one of the city's primary semi-public event venues. Commonly used for sporting events, college and high-school graduations, and concerts.



    • Stadiums:

      • Lawrence-Dumont Stadium (Downtown Wichita, west side of the River on Maple between McClean Boulevard and Sycamore): The city's baseball stadium, used almost exclusively for baseball games, particularly Wichita's minor league team, the Wingnuts. Home of the National Baseball Congress -- the organization of of America's baseball minor leagues -- this is the site of their annual national tournaments.

      • Cessna Stadium (northeast Wichita, 21st and Hillside, next to Koch Arena, above): The University's former football stadium, now used mostly for other sporting events, and some other public shows.

      • Eck Stadium (northeast Wichita, , on 21st at the northeast edge of Wichita State University, between Hillside and Oliver): The University's baseball stadium, one of the best college baseball stadiums in the nation.



    • Hotel convention facilities:

      Wichita has several large hotels with extensive convention/meeting facilities, generally including restaurant (with on-site catering), bar/club, pool, numerous meeting rooms (from very small conference rooms to large banquet halls, often accommodating hundreds). Hospitality accommodations usually include a wide range of hotel rooms (including executive suites), indoor pool, courtesy car, and other amenities.

      • Hyatt Regency (West side of Downtown, on the river, at Waterman): South of (and attached to) Century II, it is the city's primary hotel and convention complex, large, modern and airy -- though requiring a lot of walking. It is connected, on the 2nd floor, to the south building of the Century II complex, permitting sharing of facilities, by arrangement. Adjacent parking garage, and large civic parking lots (some free), with extensive indoor facilities, restaurant, and club, with on-site catering. Most rooms have a fairly scenic river-and-downtown view.

      • Drury/Broadview (West side of Downtown, on the river, at Douglas and Waco): Across Douglas Ave. from Century II, it is the city's most elegant old hotel and convention complex, exceptionally comfortable, beautifully restored and redecorated in recent years. Limited parking (though a large, free parking lot is a half-block north), but very extensive indoor facilities, and a fine restaurant. Next to the river. As with most old hotels, rooms are generally small -- though most rooms are attractive and comfortable (some with a nice river or downtown view) and a few large suites are available.

      • Airport Hilton Inn: (West Wichita, at Wichita's Eisenhower Airport, just northwest of the terminal): Ample parking, extensive indoor facilities, elegant, expensive restaurant -- with extraordinary buffets -- and club. Far removed from all other commercial activity and resources.

      • Marriott Inn: (Far East Wichita, just north of Kellogg at Webb Road, immediately across from Textron's Beech Field) A large hotel, immediately surrounded by several lower-cost motels, allowing many options for guest accommodations. Limited, but generally adequate, parking. Extensive convention facilities, restaurant; small, part-time gift shop /convenience store. Far removed from all other commercial activity and resources.



    • Motel convention/meeting facilities:

      Smaller, less-expensive convention facilities are available at large motel complexes on major highways, with easy access and extensive parking. Two particularly popular such facilities, with restaurant, meeting rooms, and other accommodations are:

      • Red Coach Inn / Best Western Airport Inn & Conference Center (6815 W. Kellogg Drive, southeast of Kellogg and Ridge Rd., a mile west of I-235, a mile or two from airport terminal.):

        A large, comfortable facility, moderately priced, with large non-private meeting area (surrounded by hotel rooms, under a giant roof), and smaller meeting/dining hall(s) and other spaces. Good, affordable restaurant. Extensive shopping (pricey and affordable), other restaurants, and fast-food, all available within a mile, 24 hours a day. Business center, indoor courtyard and pool, putting green.

      • Best Western North Wichita Hotel & Suites (North of the city, at 915 E. 53rd St. North, west of I-135 and 53rd St. interchange) :

        A large, comfortable facility, moderately priced, with large non-private meeting area (surrounded by hotel rooms, under a giant roof), and smaller meeting/dining hall(s) and other spaces. Good, affordable restaurant. Adjacent truck stop / convenience store, and nearby fast-food places.



    PARKS:

    Wichita has a substantial array of public parks, particularly in the older parts of the city (developers now frown on requirements to set aside sections of land for public recreation -- and developers' interests generally dominate Wichita city government).

    Though small parks often have little or no amenities, most parks have one or more of these: playground equipment, baseball diamonds and/or other sports spaces, picnic tables (sometimes with cooking grills or fire pits), and/or public restrooms. Several have community centers, club houses and/or open park shelters (use may require reservation and/or rental arrangements with the city's Parks & Recreation Dept.). Some have a branch library.

    A few have a water playground -- either an attended, fee-charged swimming pool, or unattended, free "splash pad" "interactive fountains." While encouraging the development of costly, semi-commercial private YMCA pools, the city is shutting down most public swimming pools -- especially in poor and minority neighborhoods -- replacing them with cheap, unattended "splash pads" for little kids to run around in various water sprays (teens and adults are deprived of any real water entertainment in those places.).

    Wichita's main parks are:

    NORTHWEST:

    • Riverside Park and adjoining Oak Park (just northwest of Downtown, along the banks of the Little Arkansas River). Wichita's oldest, and one of its largest and best park spaces. Along the tree-lined banks of the rivers, the sprawling pair of parks offer shaded riverbanks, woods, public restrooms, and picnic tables (though many prefer lounging and picnicking on blankets on the shady slopes along the riverbank). Central section of park includes petting zoo, playground equpipment, and large open-air park shelter / band stage. South portion of park includes seasonal, attended, fee-charged tennis courts. (For the full "Riverside experience," snack at artsy, cozy "Riverside Perk" coffee shop, at 11th and Nims, just north of the park -- or farther north on Nims, at 13th Street, at the nostalgic Riverside Cafe.)

    • Bontanica (west-northwest Wichita, on Stackman Drive, along the east edge of the Big Arkansas River, just west of Zoo Boulevard, a mile east of Ridge Road. South of Oak Park, west of Cowtown and the Wichita Art Museum.) Botanica is a "hidden" botanical garden with many paved walkways and trails. Admission is charged. Very large clubhouse and visitor center. Used for many events, from weddings and private parties to large business and social events. Guided tours of the gardens are available. Seasonal.

    • Sim Park (west of Riverside Park, north of Botanica, along the east banks of the Big Arkansas River). Wooded sand hills covered in trees, with shaded clearings equipped with picnic tables and fire pits. Trails through the woods. Steep riverbanks lead to sand bar on the river. Beware of ticks in the woods, and sand burrs in the grass.

    • Minisa Park (northwest Wichita, on the Little Arkansas River, just west of North High School, on 13th). Small park with popular clubhouse.

    • Evergreen Park (north-northwest Wichita, at 25th and Arkansas, a mile west of Broadway). Small park with pool, large clubhouse, and Evergreen Branch library.

    • Sedgwick County Park (far northwest Wichita, on 21st Street, just west of Zoo Boulevard, a mile east of Ridge Road). Large "nature park" around a sand lake, with many paved walkways and trails. Used for many events, from weddings to Renaissance Fairs.

    SOUTH:

    • O.J. Watson Park (southwest Wichita, on McClean Boulevard two blocks north of 31st Street South, approximately a half-mile west of Broadway). One of the city's favorite parks. Large tree-filled park surrounding winding lake (no swimming or personal boats allowed), with fishing, many picnic tables, open-air park shelters. In peak seasons (at certain times), the park offers paddle-boat rentals, chlidrens' pony rides, and a miniature train -- all available for moderate fees.

    • Linwood Park (inner-southeast Wichita, two miles southeast of Downtown, between Hydraulic and the Canal Route, between Lincoln and Mt. Vernon).
      • South half (south of Harry) includes Linwood Branch public library, public pool, baseball diamonds and other sports spaces. Also site of a school.
      • North half (north of Harry, hidden a block east of Hydraulic) is richly covered in trees, with gentle hill-slopes, a large open-air park shelter / band stage, picnic tables, playground, and public restrooms.

    NORTHEAST:

    • McAdams Park (north-central Wichita, just west of the Canal Route, between 13th and 17th). Includes baseball diamonds and other sports spaces, public restrooms. Also site of a school. The pool there has been closed for years, and there has been a recent controversy by the city over demolishing it, over stiff community objections.

    • Fairmount Park (two blocks south of the East side of Wichita State University) includes a clubhouse, water-spray pad, and public restrooms.

    • Edgemoor Park (northeast Wichita, at 9th and Edgemoor). Includes Edgemoor Branch Library, clubhouse & pool. Targeted at the upper-income neighborhood east of it.

    OTHER PARKS:

      Numerous other small neighborhood and Downtown parks dot the city -- 144 in all -- many with clubhouses, shelters, water parks, sports spaces, or other recreational facilities (though many have little or no accommodations, and some are largely barren open ground).

      Special parks include an equestrian (horseback riding) park (Pawnee Prairie, in far west Wichita), a few "dog parks" (the city plans a dozen more), skateboard parks (particularly under each end of the downtown Kellogg Overpass), and a park to fly model aircraft and drones.


      For more information on Wichita-area parks, see the Wichita Parks Recreation and Open Space Plan - Plan Update 2016 on the city's website.

    SPORTS COMPLEXES:

    In addition to the sports facilities at the regular parks, Wichita has three large public sports complexes specifically designed for sporting events and activities. Their use may require fees and/or reservations. Contact the City of Wichita Parks & Recreation Dept..:

    • West Side Athletic Field (inner-northwest Wichita, on McClean Boulevard, a half-mile west of Seneca) Extensive baseball diamonds and other sports spaces, with bleachers and public restrooms.

    • _____ Athletic Field (far-northwest Wichita, on Ridge Road, north of 13th) Extensive baseball diamonds and other sports spaces, with bleachers and public restrooms.

    • East Side Athletic Field (far northeast outskirts of Wichita, on Greewich Road, north of K-96) Extensive baseball diamonds and other sports spaces, with bleachers and public restrooms.

    GOLF COURSES:

    Wichita has several large, attractive public golf courses, spread around the city. They are not free. For more on them, contact the city's Parks & Recreation Dept.


    AMUSEMENT PARKS & FACILITIES:

    Though once well-stocked with amuseument parks, Wichita has little to offer in the way of amusement parks today. These modest, but entertaining, sites remain:

    • All Star Sports East -- (far east Wichita, on Webb Road, between Central and 13th Street North). Go karts, miniature golf, driving range, batting cage, arcade.

    • All Star Sports West -- (far west Wichita, on 13th Street, east of Tyler Road). Go karts, miniature golf, arcade, etc..

    • Various skating rinks -- both ice skating and roller skating (a handful of skating rinks remain), particularly:
      • Wichita Ice Arena -- (across the river from downtown Wichita, on Lewis/Maple Street, just west of the river and McClean Boulevard). Ice skating; classes available.

    • Bowling alleys -- Wichita is still enthusiastic about bowling (WSU's team wins collegiate championships), and several bowling alleys -- small and large -- are scattered throughout the city.

    • Museums & Libraries -- Wichita has numerous libaries and museums (see the EDUCATION section, above) -- particularly in the heart of town -- and some are entertaining (part-time or continuously). In particular, these two sites are aimed at providing dynamic family entertainment:

      • Cowtown Museum:
        Exceptionally authentic recreation of early Wichita -- with many of its original buildings. Character re-enactors, in authentic garb, portray pioneer Wichitans, including cowboys and farmers, a blacksmith, bartender, storekeeper, gentle ladies and saloon gals, and more. Shootouts may happen on short notice. Educational & fun, and a true-to-life disconnect from the modern world. Seasonal.

      • Exploration Place:
        (On the west bank of the river, immediately northwest of Downtown, on McClean Boulevard. Odd-looking gray concrete building with sweeping curves.) Exciting, interactive science-and-technology museum, includes many hands-on activities for young and old. Includes such exceptional features as flight simulators and interactive wind-tunnels, planetarium and IMAX dome theater. VERY expensive, but you won't regret it. Come early, stay a long time. Do everythig. Kids will LOVE it.

    ONCE UPON A TIME... Wichita used to be richly endowed with these grand amusement parks, all now closed:

    • Joyland -- (southeast Wichita, on Hillside south of Pawnee, near Planeview). Famed for its carnival atmosphere, huge roller-coaster, countless amuseument rides, swimming pool, and picnic grounds -- for decades it was THE place for family fun, but was abandoned in the 1970s, dismantled recently.

    • Kiddie Land -- (southeast Wichita, on East Harry between Oliver and Hillside). Miniature Joyland, in almost every respect, including more-modest roller-coasters, pools, rides. Miniature golf course. Destroyed to make room for the original Wichita Mall shopping center (now defunct).

    • Frontierland: (Far West Kellogg / Highway 54, west of town; now only a few abandoned buildings remain, and the White Buffalo Antique Mall). A huge, authentic Wild West town, with saloon/restaurant, Wild-West acts (shooters, rope & bullwhip experts, etc.), country/western music, stagecoach rides, archery range, bowling alley, gift shop, occasional rodeos and horse-races, etc.

    • Barnacle Bill's / Fantasea (north of the city near Woodlawn at K-96) water theme park: huge pools, includng wave pool, giant water slides, etc.

    OLD TOWN:

    Wichita's "party district" is the "Old Town" area across the tracks, to the east of Downtown, west of Washington Ave., from Douglas to 3rd Street North. Originally a warehouse district, the old buildings (many abandoned) found new life in the 1980s with the arrival of the montly "Farm & Art Market," which stimulated the setting up of small shops, then eateries, and more.

    Soon the district became the daytime playground of retirees, weekend playground of adults, and the late-night party town of the young. Includes large multi-screen movie theater (the Warren Theater), numerous cafes, bars and dance halls, the tasteful Old Town Hotel, various trinket and gift shops, bicycle shop, the spectacular (open daytime only) Museum of World Treasures, and trendy business offices.

    In recent years, has become overrun at night by young people, often including some with violent and drunken behaviors. A few shootings. Greatly increased police presence and surveillance has not calmed things completely yet, but is expected to. Old folks probably shouldn't be here after dark -- but it's great in the daytime.


    BOATING:

    The Arkansas River affords limited boating opportunity, and nearby lakes offer more. For more on this topic, see the "BOATING" subsection of the "PERSONAL TRANSPORATION" page in the TRANSPORTATION section of this website.



     


    SURVEYS:
    In 2010, two surveys of "young professionals" were conducted, by...
    • The Wichita Eagle & Beacon newspaper, and
    • Wichita State University's Center for Economic Development & Business Research (CEDBR)

    Young professionals were targeted because city consultants advised that they were the necessary catalyst to attract major businesses to Wichita, and keep existing major corporate operations here.

    Subsequently, much effort has been made by city leaders, largely at public expense, to accommodate the desires expressed in these surveys -- particularly in guiding the redevelopment of Downtown Wichita.

    Results of each survey are presented below:


    SURVEY: What Do Young Adults Think About Wichita?
    http://www.kansas.com/business/story/1191756.html
    (Click graph to enlarge)

    Wichita Eagle, Business News, Feb 21, 2010 .
    Detailed poll results (data), only published in Sunday newspaper, Business News section; data not available with the online article, but graphed for you here (click to enlarge), and itemized in the table below:

    This survey, and the related survey below, are being described in Wichita's official and business circles as "guidelines" for community development priorites -- focusing on the desires of a narrow class of young, college-educated, upper-middle-class, mostly-white Wichitans -- many of them transients -- to the exclusion of everyone else. Various consultants advise that enticing these "high value" workers to Wichita (and keeping them here) is critical to attracting major corporations -- and their other jobs -- to Wichita (and keeping them here).

    NOTE: Only YOUNG PROFESSIONALS were surveyed
    -- thus NOT taking into consideration the MAJORITY of the community, nor even the majority of Wichita's young adults. Young "white collar" workers are studied. "Blue-collar" / "gray-collar" / "pink-collar" workers and homemakers (most of Wichita's population) are not considered. Nor are retirees, nor later-middle-aged workers, nor children, teens or even college students.
     
    Survey Results - Young Professionals
    Feb.21, 2010 Wichita Eagle, Business Section, page 5B



    SURVEY RESULTS

    Believe this quality important

    Believe Wichita has this quality

    Cost of Living

    96%

    93%

    Ease of Getting Around

    90%

    80%

    Quality of Recreation & Environment

    84%

    53%

    Quality of Culture, Dining & Nightlife

    80%

    66%

    Diversity, Community Engagement

    69%

    48%





    Young Professionals Survey
    - File Format: PDF/Adobe Acrobat -
    http://webfiles.wichita.edu/cedbr/YoungProfSurveyPP.pdf
    by Wichita State University CEDBR
    (Ctr. for Economic Development & Business Research)

    A survey of selected young adults (NextGen YUPPIES ?).
    Includes their comments on local amenities - including Downtown, the River, Old Town, variety of shopping and restaurants, ... and complaints: a lack of a progressive movement, progressive transportation options, etc.

    NOTE: Only YOUNG PROFESSIONALS surveyed. Not taking into consideration the majority of the community, nor even the majority of Wichita professionals or young adults.
     




    Participate - Let your voice be heard!


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