WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – Troy Houtman has a plan for downtown, and the little park known as Naftzger.
“When I first took the job here, I knew that park could be a showcase spot,” says Houtman, Director of Wichita Park and Recreation Department. “We knew that would make a difference to the culture of downtown, the ambiance of downtown. Naftzger Park, the way it is right now, is a fantastic park. It is beautiful. But with the big pond in there, it’s not very level, it’s hard to do any kind of events in there.”
Houtman wanted to change that, and do it in time for the NCAA tournament that is coming to town in about a month.
The city will not make a deadline to get the park a face-lift for the NCAA crowds. But, the city is moving forward again with plans to change the face of the park.
Some who live and work downtown say they like the park, but a new look is a great idea.
“I think right now (Naftzger park) it’s just kind of an empty, dead space. And I hate to see it like that because it’s really neat and you’ve got the Spaghetti works in the back of it,” says video artist and Wichita resident, Luke Mason. “So to fix it up, it would just attract a more positive vibe and maybe people would even go enjoy coffee and lunch and it would just kind of brighten up this part of town.”
“Well, different is always good. So, I’m all for change,” says Shauntoray Grisby, photographer.
Grisby uses the park as a background for a lot of her photography.
“It’s just a nice place to come and sit down, and I’m all for it if it means improving the area,” says Shauntoray.
Houtman says, while the original plan was to have the park revamped for the NCAA crowds coming downtown, they have revitalized plans to revitalize the park.
“We have engaged on the improvements,” says Houtman. “And we’re talking about having some Zumba classes there, having some art there, having movies in the park there so, things that are really going to engage people when they come downtown.”
Houtman says they have taken public input and will have public engagements coming up as soon as the second week of March.
The cost of the changes to the park could be up to $1.5 million, including another half a million for demolition, site work and infrastructure.