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Convention center wont run cheaply
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Poor management has left the Great Bend Convention Center in need of — well, in need of a lot — local officials are discovering as they work to finalize public ownership.
City Administrator Howard Partington told the Great Bend City Council this week that the city has closed on the property on 10th Street, and that the contributors had come up with the $500,000 that it cost for the city to own it. However, he added, even a cursory examination of the facility shows that more than the purchase price is going to be needed to get the facility in shape for it to stay in competition with other convention facilities across the state.
Most of the facility is unchanged from when it was built in 1981 and the simply has not been a reinvestment in it, Partington explained.
The city also continues to investigate how the facility will be operated, who will be in charge of it from day to day and how the various maintenance and operations issues will be addressed.
From now through February, the current hotel operators will continue to service the events that are scheduled for the convention center.
The city is going to have an energy audit performed on the facility to determine how it can keep costs to a minimum on heating, air conditioning and lighting.
Also there will be consideration of the divider walls, the moveable dividers used to change the internal area in the center. They are in dangerous condition and could fail. Their condition will need to be addressed soon, it was suggested.
The city staff will continue working on the project and will seek information about what it will cost the city to address some of the issues. Those will be brought back to the council.
It was reported earlier that it is crucial that the community keep its convention center, and that other Kansas towns are struggling to develop their own now.
Local hotel owner Loren Unruh told the council when it was first considering taking on the convention center, that Great Bend is in an enviable position to have this facility, even if there are some problems. He noted that Newton is spending millions of dollars now to build a convention facility.
And Hays is trying to figure out in today’s economy how it can do the same thing, because that community simply doesn’t have large meeting spaces.
The convention center allows Great Bend to seat 1,000 people at one time. That is unheard of in most communities.
Unruh said the community needs to recognize what foresight Harper Builders had to have constructed this facility and to work together to make sure it stays a convention center.
On the other hand, it was added, if, in the future, it would be advantageous for the city to sell the facility, it could certainly do so.