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Convention Center topic of special meeting
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The future of the Great Bend Convention Center will be the topic of a special City Council meeting at 10 a.m. Saturday in the council chambers, 1209 Williams.
Council members will be joined by the Great Bend Convention and Visitors Bureau Board and Great Bend resident Becky Wornkey to discuss and garner input on how to best operate the center. They will look at the center’s short-, medium- and long-term fate.
After much discussion over the poor condition of the center and its revenue potential at its July 3 meeting, the council voted to form this “super committee.” Currently, the facility is maintained by Highland Hotel management.
Many at the council meeting the night of July 3 felt the center’s condition was an embarrassment to the community and cited complaints of uncleanliness.
Since discussions on the center began, the council has eyed a host of management options. These ranged from the status quo of having the Highland owners manage the center to having the city handle everything from booking to food service.
Last August, Ambika Enterprises, a partnership between husband and wife Tejal and Amarish Patel of Concordia, and an uncle, Ishwar Patel of Vancouver, Canada, bought the hotel portion. The family, which already operates smaller hotels in Concordia and Beatrice, Neb., officially took over the hotel portion of the Highland Complex on Aug. 23, 2011.
In June 2011, the council approved utilizing $500,000 donated by an anonymous group of local residents to purchase the convention center.  
The Patels told the council earlier they were in the process of making renovations to the hotel. But, they are concerned about what the city plans to do.
City Administrator Howard Partington said the center project could be broken down into three pieces – the next six months, the construction phase (during which time the center would likely be closed) from January through July 2013, and the actual operation of the center after that. But, any action is up to the council.
 The attached Highland Hotel has 174 rooms and was started in 1962. The center and the office complex behind it were built in the 1980s.
The years have been rough on the center. There are not enough restrooms, the carpet is wearing out, the sprinklers and the lighting need to be upgraded, the movable walls are in bad shape, the heating and air conditioning need to be replaced and handicapped accessibility needs to be addressed.
The city is also working with the Great Bend Chamber of Commerce and the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism to bring at least a portion of the KDWPT headquarters to the center’s office facility. The lease is set to expire on the state agency’s Topeka location and it has been looking elsewhere.
The fate of this project should be known any time now.