12 new things to look forward to in 2012

If you like to shop, eat, work out or gamble, the next twelve months should be an exciting time. Here's a look at some of what's coming.

Story by Joe Stumpe

1. Downtown YMCA

The YMCA is building a new $23 million, 110,000-square-foot Central Family Y to replace the existing facility, which dates to 1959. It will have two indoor pools, two gymnasiums, racquetball courts, an indoor track, fitness centers, a nursery and the YMCA's corporate offices.

2. St. Mary's Cathedral

The Catholic Diocese is restoring The Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception (popularly known as St. Mary's Cathedral) to help celebrate the building's 100-year anniversary. Work on the 105-foot dome, additional lighting to emphasize architectural details and a new covered structure connecting all buildings on the campus at Broadway and Central are among $16 million in work underway.

3. Cabela's

The national outdoor retailer is building a 80,000square foot store in Regency Lakes at 21st and Greenway. The stores sell thousands of items related to fishing, hunting, boating and other outdoor activities, and tend to become tourist destinations on their own with their trophy animal mountings and wildlife displays.

4. Fresh Market

The upscale Fresh Market grocery chain is moving into the former Ultimate Electronics space in Bradley Fair. The chain, concentrated in the southeast United States, tries to emulate the feel of open-air European markets with an on call meat department, fresh seafood, gourmet foods, freshly roasted coffee and classical music playing in the background.

5. Chick-fil-A

It's hard to remember a fast-food chain generating more excitement than this one did when it announced it will open two locations in Wichita this year. Known for the chicken sandwiches and humorous TV commercials featuring cows, Chick-fil-A plans one store on the east side at Central and Rock, and another on the west side, near 21st and Maize.

6. Redbud Bike Trail

The city is constructing a new bike trail, called the Redbud, on an abandoned railroad track running from the Canal Route near Central to the intersection of 17th and Oliver. The trail will connect downtown with Wesley Medical Center, the Ken-Mar neighborhood, Wichita State University and more. Cyclists hope it will eventually be extended to Rock Road or further east along the old railroad line.

7. Kansas Star Casino

At press time, it looked like the new casino in Mulvane was going to open the day after Christmas, rather than after January 1 as originally planned. Still, most of the 2 million visitors expected this year will get their first look at the casino in 2012. What they'll find is a 60,000-square-foot building filled with more than 1,300 slots and tables offering blackjack, roulette, craps and poker games. And that's just the temporary casino which is being housed in what will eventually become an equestrian center--until the permanent casino is finished. That is scheduled to open in 2013, but based on the Star's track record, don't be surprised if it's done this year, too.

8. Ambassador Hotel

A $30 million, 117-room, four-star boutique hotel is planned for the Dockum Drug building at Douglas and Broadway. The building was the site of a historic 1958 sit-in protest against lunch counters that denied service to African Americans.

9. Lake Side Club

Businessman Wink Hartman is going to find out if an old-school concept the private dining club still has appeal, opening the Lake Side Club in the former Bella Donna restaurant space near Webb and 21st.

10. Shocker Basketball

Many observers expect the WSU roundballers to make the NCAA tournament this year, and a December win against then No.12-ranked University of Las Vegas did nothing to dampen expectations. The Shockers appear to be even deeper and more experienced than last year's team, which won the NIT title.

11. Intrust Arena Shows

Performances by Brad Paisley, George Strait and comedian Jeff Dunham will have Wichitans headed to the downtown arena.

12. Better Weather

Because it's got to be, right? Wichita broke all kind of records for heat last year, so anything is likely to represent an improvement.

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