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WICHITA, Kansas — It may have taken longer to jump start than many expected, but development around the Intrust Bank Arena is starting to take off with two new businesses set to open at the end of the month hoping to take advantage of event crowds.
“Everybody’s excited to see what this thing can turn into and what it can do,” said developer Ryan Mills.
Mills is opening Walkers Bar and Venue and Jetty’s Pizza in the 200 block of N. Commerce inside an old flour mill. Both businesses border the arena property.
It’s an area Mills says has risks. There’s not much foot traffic on the block and he wonders if he’ll struggle on nights where there are no events.
“We made the decision it was worth the risk and we feel like people who are going to go to the arena are going to take advantage of this but we won’t really know until we open up and see,” said Mills.
Coleman Lockett is welcoming Mills to the neighborhood. He opened Bite Me BBQ around the corner on St. Francis two years ago.
Lockett says business is 15% higher than he projected. And he’s excited about the prospect of more businesses opening around the arena to draw more crowds to the section of downtown.
“I really think its a great move for anybody at this point right now because downtown is on the upswing,” said Lockett.
City leaders remain excited about development in the area, hoping to fulfill the promise that the arena would bring more business to downtown south of Old Town.
With The Ambassador Hotel’s opening earlier this year and plans moving forward to redevelop Union Station, more developers are expressing interest in the downtown area, according to the Wichita Downtown Development Corporation.
“We’re seeing a lot of interest both locally, regionally, even nationally now with Wichita,” said Jeff Fluer, president of Wichita Downtown Development Corp.
Walkers Bar and Venue will feature live music and food. Jetty’s Pizza plans to be a family oriented restaurant. Developers hope to open both by October 1.