The Great Bend City Council will hold a special meeting to discuss the Great Bend Convention Center in order to gather public input on the project. The meeting is set for 6 p.m. tonight at the center, 3017 10th St.
Scott Bixler and some members of his team from the Wichita architectural firm WDM will be present and city officials will have some cost estimates on what it would take to renovate the city-owned center. The possibility of building a new facility will also be discussed.
The council set the meeting when it met Monday. City Administrator Howard Partington gave an update on the center, saying the council needs to consider keeping it open while its fate remains undecided.
There are also concerns about the dismal quality of the attached, privately owned Highland Hotel and how it might drag down use of the center.
The city took over day-to-day operations of the center on Jan. 1. At first, officials had planned on closing the center that same day for construction. A coordinator was to be hired by then to market and manage the center, and handle bookings after it reopened in the late summer of 2013.
Because of this, a number of scheduled events have canceled.
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.
In August 2011, 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.
Then, the council approved utilizing $500,000 donated by an anonymous group of local residents to purchase the convention center.
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.