Imagine a pair of visitors flying in to Dwight D. Eisenhower National Airport, stepping out of a glass-paneled passenger jetway and into a light-filled, state-of-the-art terminal. Sweeping architecture calls to mind the soaring lines of the aircraft built here. The theme of flight is echoed throughout, in the monumental artwork and illustrated murals depicting the storied history of aviation in the area.
This is the ICT gateway of the near future – and the city it opens into is bursting with upgrades from east to west and in between. Here’s what our future visitors of 2015 might experience.
New Airport Terminal
Before even picking up their rental car the visitors might stop and grab a bite at Chick-fil-A, River City Brewery or Dunkin’ Donuts. They’ll enjoy free Wi-Fi (as always) and a spacious baggage claim, says Valerie Wise with the City of Wichita. “The new terminal will offer a much more favorable first impression to visitors to Wichita.”
The city has partnered with Wichita Festivals (the same people who bring us Riverfest) to plan a community open house sometime in late March, in advance of the official grand opening ceremonies.
As they’re driving into the city, if our future visitors are still peckish, they can stop by the new Dunkin’ Donuts on West Street for a Bavarian Kreme Donut or Sugar Cookie Latte.
On a sunny morning in 2015, our visitors may park in the freshly renovated former Macy’s parking garage at Market and William Street, and then take a stroll through a pop-up urban park at the corner of Douglas and Market – a site that formerly languished as a half-excavated hole in the ground – according to Jeff Fluhr, president of Wichita Downtown Development Corporation.
If our visitors are arts aficionados and want to look into some of the diverse galleries and studios on Commerce Street, they’ll enjoy an upgraded streetscape with site improvements and recently added parking spaces.
Historic Union Station will be under redevelopment, with the surrounding plaza and walkways set to be renovated and landscaped in 2015. Rock island Depot and the Grand Hotel may even be accepting mixed-use tenants as a fresh infusion of restaurants, retail and office space brings a second life to what was once earlier generations’ gateway to Wichita.
“It’s an iconic building in our city that’s going to increase the connectivity between the Old Town district, the Arena and Commerce Street,” Fluhr says.
Work, Play, Shop
Whether our imaginary guests are visiting for work or leisure, they’ll find plenty of diversions. First, they could stop for lunch at Graystone, a new steak and seafood restaurant at 21st and Webb.
If they’re the active types, they might drop into the new eastside Academy Sports & Outdoors at Highway 96 and Greenwich to pick up equipment for their golfing, archery or other outdoor hobbies. Or they could play a quick game of bubble soccer at Wichita Sports Center. “You squeeze inside the bubble suit,” says owner Jeff Sanders, “hold on to the handles in there, and run around trying to score, bouncing off of each other.”
The Costco at the corner of Kellogg and Webb will also be opening in 2015, should our guests be in need of appliances, clothing, floral arrangements, luggage or more. Then they can scoot north to attend a business conference or wedding at Noah’s event Venue, the newest in a national chain of distinctive event facilities, which will be overlooking the east lake at The Waterfront.
After several days of shopping, dining, playing, working and exploring, our visitors pack up and head back to the airport. “The security screening area will be much larger,” says Wise, “and more manageable for the TSA, so we shouldn’t see long lines there.” That will cap a memorable experience for visitors flying in and out of our city in 2015 – and those who live here as well.