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Wichita's Remodeled Naftzger Park Opens, But Without Fanfare

Nadya Faulx
Naftzger Park in downtown Wichita was converted from a Victorian-style park into an "urban space events park."

After almost two years of construction, the newly remodeled Naftzger Park officially opened to the public Thursday — but without the planned fanfare.

The city of Wichita cancelled the grand opening party scheduled for Thursday night "due to ongoing concerns around a potential outbreak of COVID-19."

The park has technically been open to the public for months. Though some planting still needs to be done, Nick Esterline with developer TGC says construction is “for all intents and purposes” complete.

Credit Nadya Faulx / KMUW
Nick Esterline is the founder and president of TGC Group, which developed the remodeled Naftzger Park.

“It’s really cool to see it all come together finally and all the different elements that people can experience,” he says.

The city converted the former Victorian-style park into a “modern, urban” area. The 1-acre lot now features a dog park, water fountain, LED screen and entertainment pavilion overlooking an Astroturf field.

Esterline says the park connects Old Town and the Intrust Bank Arena neighborhood.

“One of our goals was to open all this up and make a traffic pattern where people could literally go this way in front of our retail shops and restaurants to get to Intrust or to go to Old Town from Intrust Arena," he says, "or they could cut straight across, or they could mosey around either way.”

From the beginning, the park has been a public-private effort: The almost $4 million dollar remodel was funded partially from a $1.4 million dollar donation from Evergy; the city and Tax Increment Financing will fund the rest.

The project was done in conjunction with the renovation of the old Spaghetti Works building to the south, which is now a 41-unit apartment complex.

A mixed-use development to the east of the park is nearing full occupancy, Esterline says. In addition to the Martin Pringle law firm, the development also houses two restaurants and a dog groomer, and will soon be the site of a new wine bar. The city is leasing parts of the public park to businesses for outdoor seating.

The city also signed an agreement with the owners of Wave to manage events at the park. 

Naftzger Park opened more than 40 years ago and is named for banker Maurice Clifford Naftzger.

Esterline acknowledges the park’s history and says keeping the name was “non-negotiable.” But he says historic renovations have to be balanced with other elements.

“Structures aren’t the only thing that creates a history,” he says.

Nadya Faulx is KMUW's Digital News Editor and Reporter, which means she splits her time between working on-air and working online, managing news on KMUW.org, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. She joined KMUW in 2015 after working for a newspaper in western North Dakota. Before that she was a diversity intern at NPR in Washington, D.C.