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The Group Travel Leader Going on Faith Select Traveler

Kansas Meeting Guide: Wichita’s waterfront

Courtesy Go Wichita

As meeting attendees walk out of Wichita’s riverfront convention center for the day, they are faced with a free-time dilemma. Should they shop at the new WaterWalk development a few steps away, walk four blocks along a pedestrian walkway to numerous museums or take a walking bridge to the eclectic restaurants and stores in Delano, a historic neighborhood where Chisholm Trail cowboys once bellied up to the bar?

Obviously, with this many attractions and venues hugging the banks of the Arkansas River, downtown Wichita’s entertainment options are plentiful.

“There is just so much energy happening in our downtown right now,” said Maureen Hofrenning, vice president of Go Wichita CVB. “A new downtown-development plan was approved last year following the great success of the 15,000-seat Intrust Bank Arena that opened in 2010, and its projects include the 117-room Ambassador Hotel, opening in December.”

The city has  three hotels near its Century II Performing Arts and Convention Center: the new 131-room Marriott Fairfield Inn and Suites and the newly renovated 220-room Drury Plaza Hotel Broadview, which has a 9,000-square-foot ballroom.

“The Century II is also on the banks of the river, and it features 200,000 square feet of meeting and exhibit space as well as an attached 303-room Hyatt Regency Wichita  with 36,000 square feet of recently renovated meeting space,” she said. “Between the two properties, there are 28 meeting rooms and a 10,000-square-foot walkway with meeting rooms.

“These three hotels make for a great convention center package,” said Hofrenning. “Large groups like the 1,000-person Society of Decorative Painters have used all their 654 rooms.”

Kansas’ largest city has a population of 600,000 in its metropolitan area, with many cultural offerings for meeting groups. For example, the convention center is also a 2,000-seat performing arts center, home to the symphony, opera and music theater of Wichita.

“In addition, our riverfront museums can offer groups five different experiences, and all of them are interested in hosting receptions and meetings,” said Hofrenning.

Groups of 350 to 400 could consider the city’s botanical gardens — Botanica — or the Mid-America All-Indian Center. The Wichita Art Museum and Exploration Place science center can each accommodate groups of as many as 250 people. Old Cow Town has a visitors center for 140-person events, or larger groups can rent the entire museum.

The riverfront is also home to Wichita’s iconic Keeper of the Plains, a 44-foot statue of a Native American located at the confluence of the Arkansas and Little Arkansas rivers. In recent years, the city has spent $20 million to add walking bridges and a plaza where groups can watch the lighting of the firepots each night.

The Kansas Star Casino, which opened in December as part of a three- property complex, is the area’s newest attraction. A 150-room hotel will open there next year, as will an equestrian center in 2014.

Located 15 miles south of Wichita on Interstate 35, the casino hotel will include meeting space; the 3,000-seat equestrian arena will also be available for nonequestrian events.