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Kansas: For wows, try Wichita

By John Noltner, courtesy Meredith Corp.

Wichita, Kansas’ largest city, is a meetings hub with more than 8,000 hotel rooms. Credit goes in part to local industry.

“A large amount of aircraft are produced right here in Wichita, and we have a large number of aviation-related associations that come here for meetings,” said Maureen Hofrenning, vice president of Go Wichita, the Wichita Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Agricultural associations also meet in one of the Midwest’s larger metro areas. In 2010, the Grain Elevator and Processing Society held its international meeting there.

Wichita’s location is attractive to the SMERF market, evidenced by the Society of Decorative Painters, which has returned to Wichita for three consecutive years.

Downtown Wichita is home to the Century II Performing Arts and Convention Center, with more than 200,000 square feet of meeting space. Banquet and meeting rooms range from 900 to 7,750 square feet, and the concert hall seats 2,197.

Carl A. Bell Jr. Convention Hall, which seats 4,786 for presentations, can become a 32,000-square-foot exhibit hall when seating is removed. A retractable wall between the convention hall and the 45,000-square-foot exhibit hall can be removed for larger exhibitions. The 93,000-square-foot Bob Brown Expo Hall that adjoins the lobby can hold 450 10-by-10-foot booths.

The convention center is connected to the 303-room Hyatt Regency Wichita, which has 29 meeting rooms. Its 10,000-plus-square-foot Grand Eagle Ballroom is the city’s largest event space.

New venues include the 15,000-seat Intrust Bank Arena, which opened in 2010, and the Hartman Arena in nearby Park City. The historic Broadview Hotel, closed for a $20 million renovation for nearly a year, was scheduled this spring to reopen as the 200-room Drury Plaza Hotel Broadview.

“It’s absolutely fantastic; we’re very excited,” Hofrenning said.

For off-site activities, Hofrenning recommends Old Town, a renovated warehouse district brimming with restaurants, clubs and shops. Groups can rent Old Cowtown Museum, an Old West town with a living-history program, for picnics and team-building activities. Groups also visit the towering “Keeper of the Plains” statue, placed at the confluence of the Arkansas and Little Arkansas rivers. Visit at night when fires around the plaza are lighted. “It’s a moving experience,” Hofrenning said.