WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – A staple in downtown Wichita may soon be getting a face-lift.
Wichita City Council is in the works to revitalize Naftzger Memorial Park located just north of Intrust Bank Arena on Douglas and St. Francis.
“I’ve seen this park go through a lot,” stated officer Nate Schwiethale.
For the past several years, officer Schwiethale has walked through Natfzger Memorial Park every weekday.
“When I first got on, there would be 20-30 homeless people in there committing a lot of violations. You’d see lots of alcohol bottles everywhere,” explained Schwiethale.
But, since the Homeless Outreach Team monitors it during the day the park is quiet, shaded and free of alcohol bottles. However, the park remains a hot spot for the homeless community.
“The homeless population is a part of us, and if they’re not committing a crime they’re just like anyone else and they deserve every right to be here just like anyone else,” Schwiethale said.
The park as it stands now has plenty of places for people to hide after hours, causing trespassing issues for years.
Now that Naftzger is being revitalized, city officials are hoping a more open space will fix that problem.
“Our purpose is not to run them out of the area, but our purpose is to sit down and think what’s best for that particular community,” said Lavonta Williams, Wichita City Council, District 1.
The current estimate of the new park is $1.5 million. It would come with more lighting, landscape and replacing the grass with turf.
“To maybe open it up a little bit more. Maybe level it out a little bit more, and make it more open so that we can possibly show more videos in that park,” explained Williams.
Thirty years after the park was built, the city is hoping this park can reach its full potential just in time to welcome hundreds of thousands to Wichita in 2018.
“I’m hoping by the summer we’re able to do and start on something, because obviously we’re all looking at 2018 and the influx of people coming into our community,” Williams said.
The city is going to sit down with the developers of Spaghetti Works, the building next to the park, to finalize the plan. And, then they’ll take that to the county. Construction could start as early as mid-summer.