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Making a good impression
City shows off improved Events Center during open house
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Great Bend Community Coordinator Christina Hayes, right, explains the improvements to the Great Bend Events Center to Loren Unruh during an open house Thursday afternoon. The city was showing off the improvements to the facility. - photo by Dale Hogg

It was a chance to show off the improved Great Bend Events Center Thursday afternoon.

City officials held an open house at the city-owned facility, long the site of banquets, weddings and conventions. Tours were given and questions answered.

“We have done an awful lot here,” said Great Bend Community Coordinator Christina Hayes, noting city employees are proud of the renovations. Hayes is also director of the Convention and Visitors Bureau which is now housed in the center.

Those visiting the building, many of whom had not seen it since the remodeling, were impressed.

“It looks very nice,” said Reta Brack, echoing the sentiments expressed by others as well.

Most recently, the re-carpeting and tiling of the facility wrapped up in September. The $99,000 project involved 12-foot tile perimeter around the main events room with the rest being carpet, a “walk-off” carpet in the back rooms, and mostly tile in the vestibule, foyer and Conference Room C.

The carpet is in squares that can be replaced. The color scheme is basically grays with some tan to match existing features.

However, they have noticed some scratching on the tiles and are looking at applying another protective coating. “We are taking steps to safeguard the flooring,” Hayes said. 

With the new carpet, a new portable dance floor and the ability to roll portable bars on the tiled portion of the floor, officials said the changes will really bring the center up to date.

Now, Hayes said it is time to move on to the next steps. 

Bids have been taken to paint the exterior to incorporate a new, darker gray color scheme. “We are going to totally change the look of it,” Hayes said.

Next year, they would like to see new air walls (movable partitions) installed to make dividing up the main room easier, have the bathrooms remodeled and have the words “Events Center” emblazoned on the entrance.

“We want to maximize its potential,” Hayes said. The goal is to make it usable for groups of all sizes.

More work is also being considered in the main banquet hall, Hayes said.

But, a lot has been done already. Changes have included:

• The new carpet and tile.

• The old canopy and supporting columns were removed.  

It was replaced by a 34-by-60-foot canopy covering 2,000 square feet with a 14-foot clearance. Along with this, there will be an 18-by-80-foot plaza area in front of the center.

• About 8,500 square feet of the southeast quarter of the parking lot was removed and replaced. This is sloped, making the building more handicapped accessible and improving drainage.

• Additional repair of the external facade with the new gray colors.

• New sound system, and a projectors and screens were installed.

• Updating the kitchen.

• Some of the front doors were be replaced with wider doors. There is also be an automatic door opener installed.

In addition, there is a new handicapped ramp.

• Variable LED lighting under the canopy is in place.

• An ice and snow melting system under the canopy was also installed.

• To separate the city-owned Events Center and the neighboring and now closed Great Bend Hotel and Convention Center, a covered walkway connecting the two buildings was removed. 

• The CVB was moved from its old location at the intersection of 10th and Monroe to a remodeled space in the center in early 2016.  

Office space

Attached to back of the Events Center is a massive, two-floor office complex which has been vacant for many years. It will remain so for a while longer, Hayes said.

Severely outdated and in need of repair, this is a project for down the road. The air conditioning alone would cost $500,000, plus the bathrooms don’t work and the lighting is not up to code, she said.

The complex used to house several businesses, offices and agencies, and even the CVB. And, a few years back, local officials pushed for it to house the offices of the Kansas Department of Agriculture after that department’s lease expired on its Topeka facility.

However, the KDA eventually relocated to Manhattan.

The center and the office complex behind it were added to the hotel complex (which dates back to 1962) in the 1980s. The council approved utilizing $500,000 donated by an anonymous group of local residents to purchase the convention center in 2011 from the owners of the adjacent Highland Hotel (most recently the Great Bend Hotel and Convention Center which is now closed). 

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The city will be repainting the Great Bend Events Center. This rendering shows the new gray color scheme.