When the Great Bend Chamber of Commerce held a ribbon cutting and coffee at the recently remodeled Great Bend Events Center Thursday morning, it was a celebration of a project years in the making.
“I am so excited about the improvements we’ve made to this building,” said Christina Hayes, Great Bend community coordinator and Convention and Visitors Bureau director. The city-owned center houses the offices of Hayes’ CVB office and Great Bend Economic Development Inc. President Sara Hayden, and is located at 3111 10th St.
Standing at the head of the large main ballroom, Hayes enthusiastically bragged about the facility to those attending the chamber gathering.
“We are very proud to have this,” she said. “We are excited about the future.”
In 2016, renovations started on the front portion of the venue. In May of 2020, the City Council approved an over $500,000 renovation to a portion of the long-vacant office complex attached to the back of the building, and that was the focus Thursday.
They unveiled the room names, which were determined by City Administrator Kendal Francis and city department heads, Hayes said.
“They all have historic ties to Great Bend,” she said. The main ballroom is now called the B-29 Superfortress Conference Room, the small room up front is called Cheyenne Bottoms Conference Room, the room just down the hall is the Santa Fe Trail Room and the big room now being used by the City Council for meetings is the Fort Zarah Room.
“We want to be the premier place for weddings and other events,” Hayes said. For the city, it is a quality of life issue.
The center is funded by revenue it brings in from events, which was hurt some by the COVID-19 pandemic, and the 1% of the transient guest tax that is charged for heads in beds at local motels, she said. The rest of the guest tax funds the CVB.
State statutes mandate that the transient guest tax promote tourism and conventions.
Formerly known as the Highland Hotel, It originally had 174 rooms and was started in 1962. The center and the office complex behind it (which is also now owned by the city) were built in the 1980s.
In June 2011, the council approved utilizing $500,000 donated by an anonymous group of local residents to purchase the convention center portion, including the offices in back.