|Nickname(s): Air Capital Of The World, ICT|
Location within Sedgwick County (left) and Kansas (right)
|Coordinates: Coordinates: |
|• Mayor||Carl Brewer|
|• City Manager||Robert Layton|
|• City||163.59 sq mi (423.70 km2)|
|• Land||159.29 sq mi (412.56 km2)|
|• Water||4.30 sq mi (11.14 km2)|
|Elevation||1,299 ft (396 m)|
|• Estimate (2013)||386,552|
|• Rank||US: 49th|
|• Density||2,300/sq mi (900/km2)|
|• Metro||637,394 (US: 84th)|
|Time zone||CST (Central) (UTC-6)|
|• Summer (DST)||CDT (UTC-5)|
|ZIP Codes||67201-67221, 67223, 67226-67228, 67230, 67232, 67235, 67260, 67275-67278 |
|FIPS code||20-79000 |
|GNIS feature ID||0473862 |
Wichita // WICH-ə-taw is the largest city in the State of Kansas and the 49th-largest city in the United States. Located in south-central Kansas on the Arkansas River, Wichita is the county seat of Sedgwick County and the principal city of the Wichita metropolitan area. As of the 2010 United States Census, the city population was 382,368; as of 2013, it was estimated to have increased to 386,552. In 2013, the estimated population of the Wichita metropolitan area was 637,394, and that of the larger Wichita-Winfield combined statistical area was 673,598.
The city began as a trading post on the Chisholm Trail in the 1860s, then was incorporated in 1870. It subsequently became a key destination for cattle drives traveling north from Texas to access railroads, earning it the nickname "Cowtown". In the 1920s and 1930s, businessmen and aeronautical engineers established a number of successful aircraft manufacturing companies in Wichita including Beechcraft, Cessna, and Stearman Aircraft. The city transformed into a hub of U.S. aircraft production and became known as "The Air Capital of the World". Beechcraft, Cessna, (both now part of Textron Aviation) and other firms including Learjet, Airbus, and Spirit AeroSystems continue to operate design and manufacturing facilities in Wichita today, and the city remains a major center of the U.S. aircraft industry.
As an industrial hub and the largest city in the state, Wichita is an area center of culture, media, and trade. It hosts several large museums, theatres, parks, and entertainment venues, notably Intrust Bank Arena. Several universities are located in the city including Wichita State University, the third largest in the state. The city's daily newspaper, The Wichita Eagle, has the highest circulation of any newspaper in Kansas, and the Wichita broadcast television market includes the western two-thirds of the state. Wichita is also home to two large shopping centers, Towne East Square and Towne West Square, as well as the Century II Performing Arts & Convention Center and Kansas's largest airport, Wichita Dwight D. Eisenhower National Airport.
- 1 History
- 2 Geography
- 3 Demographics
- 4 Economy
- 5 Culture
- 6 Sports
- 7 Government
- 8 Education
- 9 Media
- 10 Transportation
- 11 Notable people
- 12 Sister cities
- 13 Gallery
- 14 See also
- 15 Notes
- 16 References
- 17 Further reading
- 18 External links
Prehistory and exploration
The site at the confluence of the Arkansas and Little Arkansas Rivers has served as a trading center and meeting place for nomadic hunting people for at least 11,000 years. Human habitation in the Wichita area has been dated, in archeological digs, as far back as 3,000 B.C.
The area was visited by Francisco Vásquez de Coronado in 1541, while he was in search of the fabulous "cities of gold". While there, he encountered a group of Native Americans whom he called Quiviras and who have been identified by archaeological and historical studies as the Wichita. By 1719, these people had moved south to Oklahoma, where they met French traders.
The first permanent settlement in Wichita was a collection of grass houses inhabited by the Wichita tribe in 1863. They had moved back to Wichita from Oklahoma during the American Civil War because of their pro-Union sentiments.
Pioneer traders and boosters
Pioneer trader Jesse Chisholm, a half-white, half-Native American who was illiterate but who spoke multiple Native American languages, established a trading post at the site in the 1860s, and Chisholm traded cattle and goods with the Wichita tribe at points south along a trail from Wichita into present-day Oklahoma (and eventually into Texas) that became known as the Chisholm Trail, which soon became legendary in Western lore. Chisholm was soon eclipsed in the area by three astute businessmen: commercial buffalo hunters and traders James R. Mead (of Iowa), William Greiffenstein (a German immigrant merchant), and Buffalo Bill Mathewson (not to be confused with Buffalo Bill Cody); these men led the initial commercial development of the area, becoming key landowners of what became the city of Wichita.
Hunters, farmers and Native Americans in the area all turned to the newborn tiny settlement as a principal trading center for the area, while Wichita's entrepreneurs began an aggressive sales campaign to lure more settlers (their future customers and tenants) to the area, with the "boosterism" typical of successful early prairie settlements. The city, on the east bank of the Arkansas River, was officially incorporated in 1870. Among the signatories on the town charter was a lone woman, the town laundry operator, Catherine "The Widow" McCarty, whose elder teenage son, after leaving Wichita, would become the infamous gunman, Billy the Kid.
Wichita's position on the Chisholm Trail made it a destination for cattle drives headed north to access railroads to eastern markets. As a result, Wichita became a railhead for cattle drives from Texas and other south-western points, from which it has derived its nickname "Cowtown." Wichita's neighboring town on the opposite (west) bank of the Arkansas River, Delano, a village of saloons and brothels, had a particular reputation for lawlessness, largely accommodating the rough, visiting cattlemen. The Wichita/Delano community gained a wild reputation, however, the east (Wichita) side of the river was kept more civil, thanks to numerous well-known lawmen who passed through, employed to help keep the rowdy cowboys in line. Among those was Wyatt Earp.
Following the incorporation of the city in 1870, rapid immigration resulted in a land boom involving speculation into the late 1880s. Wichita annexed Delano in 1880. By 1890, Wichita had become the third-largest city in the state (behind Kansas City and Topeka), with a population of nearly 24,000. After the boom the city suffered from 15 years of comparative depression and slow growth.
Wichita reached national fame in 1900 when Woman's Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) member Carrie Nation decided to carry her crusade against alcohol to Wichita. On December 27 of that year she entered the Carey House bar in downtown Wichita and smashed the place with a rock and a pool ball. Although she had visited all the bars in Wichita the night before, demanding that they close their doors, the John Noble painting Cleopatra at the Roman Bath in the Carey House had drawn her particular wrath.
An island in the middle of the Arkansas River, named Ackerman Island, was home to an amusement park and a dance pavilion. The island was connected to the West Bank of the river through a Work Projects Administration (WPA) project in the 1930s.
"The Air Capital of the World"
In the 20th century, aircraft pioneers such as Clyde Cessna and Walter Beech began projects that led to Wichita's establishment as the "Air Capital of the World". The aircraft corporations Stearman, Cessna, Mooney, and Beechcraft were all founded in Wichita in the late 1920s and early 1930s.
In 1914 and 1915, oil was discovered nearby and Wichita became a major oil center. The money derived from oil allowed local entrepreneurs to invest in a nascent airplane industry. In 1917 the Cessna Comet became the first aircraft to be built in Wichita.  In 1920, oilmen Jacob M. "Jake" Mollendick and Billy Burke invited young Chicago barnstormer and aircraft builder Emil Matthew "Matty" Laird to come to Wichita to build his new airplane design, backed by their money. The Laird Swallow became an instant success, the first successful "commercial" airplane manufactured in the United States; Laird built 43 of them between 1920 and 1923. When Matty Laird returned to Chicago, the Wichita enterprise was renamed Swallow Airplane Company. Lloyd Stearman and Walter Beech were both employees of the Swallow Company, but in January 1925 they left Swallow and teamed up with Clyde Cessna to form Travel Air. Stearman left Travel Air in 1926 to start Stearman Aircraft in Venice, California, and Cessna quit in January 1927 to start Cessna. In 1927 Stearman would relocate his factory back to Wichita.
This varied aircraft industry, along with Wichita becoming a test center for new aviation, established Wichita as the "Air Capital of the World". The title was more or less officially accorded to Wichita in 1929 (for 1928 production), by the American airplane manufacturers' national trade association, then known as the Aeronautical Chamber of Commerce.
Travel Air, with Walter Beech at the helm, grew to over 600 employees and operated from a huge factory complex constructed a few miles outside the city from 1927 to 1929. Due to so many employees working at such a large complex, it was dubbed "Travel Air City" by Wichita residents. The company merged with the huge Curtiss-Wright Corporation in the Roaring Twenties' heyday of company buyouts and takeovers just two months before the Stock Market crash in 1929. Workers were laid off by the hundreds during 1930 and 1931 and by the fall of 1932, the remaining Travel Air employees were let go, the equipment was sold, and the entire Travel Air plant sat empty.
In March 1932, Beech quit the Curtis-Wright Corporation to form Beech Aircraft, along with his wife Olive Ann, and hired Ted Wells as his chief engineer. The first few "Beechcraft" were built in the vacant Cessna Aircraft plant, which had also closed during the depression; Beech later leased and then bought the Travel Air plant from Curtiss-Wright and moved his factory to this plant. Beech's first aircraft, the Model 17 (later dubbed the "Staggerwing"), was first flown on November 5, 1932. Nearly 100 Staggerwings are still in existence, many in flying condition. However, the aircraft that would propel the small company into a huge corporation was the Model 18 "Twin Beech", of which thousands were built from 1937 to 1969—the longest continuously produced aircraft in the world when production ended.
Staggerwing production ended in 1946, replaced by general aviation's first successful, fully modern light aircraft, the V-tailed, four-seat, single-engine Beechcraft Bonanza. Approximately 750 were built and sold in the first year, despite a recession and a devastating aviation industry shakeout. In various forms, the Bonanza has now become the world's longest continuously produced aircraft, still in production in a straight-tailed, six-seat version. Other models evolved from the Bonanza, ultimately culminating in the twin-turboprop Beechcraft King Air and Beechcraft Super King Air, the world's most popular turbine-powered business aircraft. The Beech line added imported business jets from Britain and Japan, a military trainer from Switzerland, and also produced military drones. On February 8, 1980, Beech Aircraft Corporation was purchased by the Raytheon Corporation and later sold to Onex Corp., which renamed it Hawker Beechcraft. Major problems followed both takeovers, including troubled developments of the advanced business turboprop Beechcraft Starship and jets, and by late 2012 / early 2013 the company entered bankruptcy proceedings—emerging without its troubled business-jet line, as Beechcraft Corp., focused solely on its popular line of propeller-driven aircraft and military drones. In 2014, Cessna parent company Textron acquired Beechcraft and combined both Cessna and Beechcraft (including the Hawker brand) into a new division known as Textron Aviation.
After the 1929 stock market crash, Stearman and Boeing were acquired by United Aircraft and Transport Corporation (UATC). In 1934, anti-trust action broke up UATC, and Boeing was spun off to house all UATC manufacturing subsidiaries west of the Mississippi river, including Wichita's Stearman. That same year, the Wichita plant began production of the successful Boeing-Stearman Model 75 "Kaydet" Navy and Army - Air Corps primary biplane trainer. After the crash of the Boeing XB-17 prototype in 1935, Wichita banker Arthur Kinkaid (IV National Bank of Wichita) supported Boeing and ensured that the Boeing-Stearman plant would remain in Wichita. By mid-2014, Boeing had wound down its Wichita operations and put its remaining facilities in the city up for sale.
The city experienced a population explosion during World War II when it became a major manufacturing center for the Boeing B-29 bombers needed in the war effort. By 1945, an average of 4.2 bombers were being produced daily in Wichita. For many years Boeing was Wichita's largest employer. Wichita saw some of its fastest population growth of the 20th century during the peak of the Cold War when Wichita was the headquarters for the Boeing Military Airplane Company and home to the McConnell Air Force Base. BoMAC produced all Boeing B-47 Stratojet aircraft and many Boeing B-52 Stratofortresses in Wichita. At various times McConnell Air Force Base hosted the 381st Strategic Missile Wing that controlled various LGM-25C Titan II missile silos around Wichita, the 388th Tactical Fighter Wing, 23d Tactical Fighter Wing, 91st Air Refueling Squadron, 384th Air Refueling Wing/Bombardment Wing, and the Kansas Air National Guard 184th Tactical Fighter Training Group. Wichita's mid-continental location made it ideal for basing strategic assets, allowing maximum time to react to a Soviet missile attack launched over the north pole or from ocean going submarines.
Several aircraft from McConnell AFB crashed in the city, including:
- On March 28, 1956 a Boeing B-47 Stratojet, 51-2175, of the 3520th FTW suffered an explosion in a bomb bay fuel tank and shed its wings over East Wichita crashing four miles (6 km) NE of the city, killing three crew.
- On January 16, 1965 a fuel-laden Boeing KC-135 Stratotanker (57-1442, c/n 17513) crashed after an engine failure shortly after take off from McConnell. It incinerated an area near the intersection of 20th and Piatt in north-central Wichita, killing 23 on the ground plus the 7 crew members; the largest non-natural disaster in Kansas history.
- On March 5, 1974 a Boeing KC-135 Stratotanker (57-1500, of the 91st Air Refueling Squadron, 384th Air Refueling Wing) carrying 136,000 pounds of fuel crashed 3,000 feet from the main runway, after it apparently lost power. Two of the seven crew were killed.
In 1962, the Lear Jet Corporation was established when the Swiss American Aviation Corporation brought the tooling for building a failed ground-attack fighter to Wichita and opened a plant at Wichita's airport. On February 7, 1963, assembly of the first Learjet aircraft began and the following year, the company was renamed the Lear Jet Corporation. In 1990 Canadian firm Bombardier Aerospace purchased Learjet Corporation.
In the late 1980s two Boeing 747s were modified at Boeing-Wichita to become VC-25s to serve as Air Force One. In 2012, Boeing announced plans to shut down its Wichita facilities in the face of Pentagon budget cuts. However, the city remains a major manufacturing center for the aircraft industry today, with Textron and Bombardier having major manufacturing centers in town, as well as design and engineering facilities run by Airbus. "
Wichita was also a significant entrepreneurial business center during the pre and post-war period, with Coleman, Mentholatum, Pizza Hut, Freddy's Frozen Custard & Steakburgers, White Castle, Taco Tico, and Koch Industries having all been founded in Wichita. (Ironically, White Castle closed all of their restaurants in Wichita in 1938 and has not operated in the state of Kansas after a failed revival attempt in the Kansas City area in the early 1990s.) The entrepreneurial spirit of Wichita led to the creation of one of the first academic centers to study and support entrepreneurship at the Wichita State University Center for Entrepreneurship.
In October 1932, orchestra leader Gage Brewer introduced the electric guitar to the world from Wichita using an instrument developed by what would later become known as the Rickenbacker Guitar Company.
The Dockum Drug Store sit-in was one of the first organized lunch-counter sit-ins for the purpose of integrating segregated establishments in the United States. The protest began in July 1958 in Wichita at the Dockum Drug Store, a store in the old Rexall chain, in which protesters would sit at the counter all day until the store closed, ignoring taunts from counterprotesters. The sit-in ended three weeks later when the owner relented and agreed to serve black patrons, taking place 18 months before the more widely publicized Greensboro sit-ins in January 1960. A 20-foot (6.1 m)-long bronze sculpture first announced in 1998 at a cost of $3 million marks the site of the successful sit-in, with a lunch counter and patrons depicting the protest.
Recent history has seen increased development in downtown and to the east and west sides of Wichita. In June 2005, Sedgwick County voters approved a sales tax raise to build a new arena downtown to replace the aging Kansas Coliseum, located north of the city. This is considered by some as a stepping stone to launch new development downtown.
Downtown Wichita is located at  Wichita is located in south-central Kansas at the junction of Interstate 35 and U.S. Route 54. Located in the Midwestern United States, it is 157 mi (253 km) north of Oklahoma City, 181 mi (291 km) southwest of Kansas City, and 439 mi (707 km) east-southeast of Denver.(37.688888, −97.336111) at an elevation of 1,299 feet (396 m).
The city lies on the Arkansas River near the western edge of the Flint Hills in the Wellington-McPherson Lowlands region of the Great Plains. The topography of the area is characterized by the broad alluvial plain of the Arkansas River valley and the moderately rolling slopes which rise to the higher lands on either side.
The Arkansas follows a winding course, south-southeast through Wichita, roughly bisecting the city. It is joined along its course by several tributaries all of which flow generally south. The largest is the Little Arkansas River, which enters the city from the north and joins the Arkansas immediately west of downtown. Further east lies Chisholm Creek which joins the Arkansas in the far southern part of the city. The Chisholm's own tributaries drain much of the city's eastern half; these include the creek's West, Middle, and East Forks as well as, further south, Gypsum Creek. The Gypsum is fed by its own tributary, Dry Creek. Two more of the Arkansas' tributaries lie west of its course; from east to west, these are Big Slough Creek and Cowskin Creek. Both streams run south through the western part of the city. Fourmile Creek, a tributary of the Walnut River, flows south through the far eastern part of the city. In addition, there are two flood control canals in the city. The Wichita-Valley Center Floodway, known locally as "The Big Ditch", diverts part of the Arkansas River's flow around west-central Wichita, running roughly parallel to the Interstate 235 bypass. The second canal lies between the lanes of Interstate 135, running south through the central part of the city. Chisholm Creek is diverted into this canal for most of its length.
As the core of the Wichita metropolitan area, the city is surrounded by suburbs. Bordering Wichita on the north are, from west to east, Valley Center, Park City, Kechi, and Bel Aire. Enclosed within east-central Wichita is Eastborough. Adjacent to the city's east side is Andover. McConnell Air Force Base lies immediately southeast of the city. To the south, from east to west, are Derby and Haysville. Goddard and Maize border Wichita to the west and northwest, respectively.
Wichita lies in the northern limits of North America's humid subtropical climate zone (Köppen Cfa), typically experiencing hot, humid summers and cold, dry winters. Located on the Great Plains far from any large moderating influences such as mountains or large bodies of water, Wichita often experiences severe weather with thunderstorms occurring frequently during the spring and summer months. These occasionally bring large hail as well as frequent lightning, and tornadoes sometimes occur. Particularly destructive tornadoes have struck the Wichita area several times in the course of its history: in September 1965, during the Andover, Kansas Tornado Outbreak of April 1991, and during the Oklahoma tornado outbreak of May 1999. Winters are cold and dry, but, since Wichita is located roughly midway between Canada and the Gulf of Mexico, cold spells and warm spells are equally frequent. Warm air masses from the Gulf of Mexico can raise mid-winter temperatures into the 50s and even 60s while cold, frigid air masses from the Arctic can occasionally plunge the temperature below 0 °F. Wind speed in the city averages 13 mph (21 km/h). On average, January is the coldest month, July is the hottest month, and June is the wettest month.
The average temperature in the city is 56.9 °F (13.8 °C). Over the course of a year, the monthly daily average temperature ranges from 32.2 °F (0.1 °C) in January to 81.1 °F (27.3 °C) in July. The high temperature reaches or exceeds 90 °F (32 °C) an average of 62 days a year and 100 °F (38 °C) an average of 12 days a year. The minimum temperature falls to or below 10 °F (−12 °C) on an average 8.5 days a year. The hottest temperature recorded in Wichita was 114 °F (46 °C) in 1936; the coldest temperature recorded was −22 °F (−30 °C) on February 12, 1899. Readings as low as −17 °F (−27 °C) and as high as 111 °F (44 °C) occurred as recently as February 10, 2011 and July 29–30, 2012, respectively.
During an average year, Wichita receives 32.69 inches (830 mm) of precipitation, most of which occurs in the warmer months, and experiences 88 days of measurable precipitation. The average relative humidity is 80% in the morning and 49% in the evening. Annual snowfall averages 15.6 inches (40 cm). Measurable snowfall occurs an average of ten days per year with at least an inch of snow being received on five of those days. Snow depth of at least an inch occurs an average of 15 days a year. The average window for freezing temperatures is October 26 through April 11.
|Climate data for Wichita Mid-Continent Airport, Kansas (1981–2010 normals, extremes 1888–present)[a]|
|Record high °F (°C)||75
|Average high °F (°C)||42.5
|Average low °F (°C)||21.9
|Record low °F (°C)||−15
|Precipitation inches (mm)||0.83
|Snowfall inches (cm)||3.6
|Avg. precipitation days (≥ 0.01 in)||4.7||5.4||8.2||8.0||11.4||10.0||7.3||7.9||7.0||7.0||5.3||5.7||87.9|
|Avg. snowy days (≥ 0.1 in)||3.0||2.1||1.2||0.2||0||0||0||0||0||0.1||0.6||2.8||10.0|
|Mean monthly sunshine hours||190.9||186.4||230.4||257.8||289.8||305.0||342.1||309.2||245.6||226.3||170.2||168.7||2,922.4|
|Percent possible sunshine||62||62||62||65||66||69||76||73||66||65||56||57||66|
|Source: National Weather Service (relative humidity and sun 1961–1990); The Weather Channel|
Wichita has several recognized areas and neighborhoods. The downtown area is generally considered to be east of the Arkansas River, west of Washington Street, north of Kellogg and south of 13th Street. The downtown area contains landmarks such as Century II, the Garvey Center, and the Epic Center. Old Town is also part of downtown; this 2-3 square mile area is home to a cluster of night clubs, bars, restaurants, a movie theater, shops, and apartments and condominiums, many of which make use of historical warehouse-type spaces.
The two most notable residential areas of Wichita are Riverside and College Hill. Riverside is northwest of the downtown area, across the Arkansas River, and surrounds the 120-acre (0.49 km2) Riverside Park. College Hill is east of the downtown area, south of Wichita State University. College Hill is one of the more historic neighborhoods, along with Delano on the west side and Midtown in the north-central city.
In terms of population, Wichita is the largest city in Kansas and the 49th largest city in the United States.
As of the 2010 census, there were 382,368 people, 151,818 households, and 94,862 families residing in the city. The population density was 2,304.8 per square mile (889.9/km²). There were 167,310 housing units at an average density of 1,022.1 per square mile (475.9/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 71.9% White, 11.5% African American, 4.8% Asian, 1.2% American Indian, 0.1% Pacific Islander, 6.2% from other races, and 4.3% from two or more races. Hispanics and Latinos of any race were 15.3% of the population.
Of the 151,818 households, 33.4% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 44.1% were married couples living together, 5.2% had a male householder with no wife present, 13.1% had a female householder with no husband present, and 37.5% were non-families. 31.1% of all households were made up of individuals, and 9.1% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.48, and the average family size was 3.14.
The median age in the city was 33.9 years. 26.6% of residents were under the age of 18; 10.1% were between the ages of 18 and 24; 26.9% were from 25 to 44; 24.9% were from 45 to 64; and 11.5% were 65 years of age or older. The gender makeup of the city was 49.3% male and 50.7% female.
The median income for a household in the city was $44,477, and the median income for a family was $57,088. Males had a median income of $42,783 versus $32,155 for females. The per capita income for the city was $24,517. About 12.1% of families and 15.8% of the population were below the poverty line, including 22.5% of those under age 18 and 9.9% of those age 65 or over.
Wichita is the principal city of both the Wichita Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) and the Wichita-Winfield Combined Statistical Area (CSA). The Wichita MSA encompasses Sedgwick, Butler, Harvey, and Sumner counties and, as of 2010, had an population of 623,061, making it the 84th largest MSA in the United States.
The larger Wichita-Winfield CSA also includes Cowley County and, as of 2013, had an estimated population of 673,598. Nearby Reno County is not a part of the Wichita MSA or Wichita-Winfield CSA, but, were it included, it would add an additional population of 64,511 as of 2010.
Wichita's principal industrial sector is manufacturing, which accounted for 21.6 percent of area employment in 2003. Aircraft manufacturing has long dominated the local economy, and plays such an important role that it has the ability to influence the economic health of the entire region; the state offers tax breaks and other incentives to aircraft manufacturers.
Healthcare is Wichita's second-largest industry, employing approximately 28,000 people in the local area. Since healthcare needs remain fairly consistent regardless of the economy, this field was not subject to the same pressures that affected other industries in the early 2000s. The Kansas Spine Hospital opened in 2004, as did a critical care tower at Wesley Medical Center. In July 2010, Via Christi Health, which is the largest provider of healthcare services in Kansas, opened a hospital that will serve the northwest area of Wichita. Via Christi Hospital on St. Teresa is the system's fifth hospital to serve the Wichita community.
Thanks to the early 20th-Century oil boom in neighboring Butler County, Kansas, Wichita became a major oil town, with dozens of oil exploration companies and support enterprises. Most famous of these was Koch Industries, today a global natural-resources conglomerate, which is still headquartered in Wichita. The city was also at one time the headquarters of the former Derby Oil Company, which was purchased by Coastal Corporation in 1988.
Koch Industries and Cargill, the two largest privately held companies in the United States, both operate headquarters facilities in Wichita. Koch Industries' primary global corporate headquarters complex is located in a large office-tower complex in northeast Wichita. Cargill Meat Solutions Div., at one time the nation's 3rd-largest beef producer, is headquartered downtown. Other firms with headquarters in Wichita include roller-coaster manufacturer Chance Morgan, gourmet food retailer Dean & Deluca, renewable energy company Alternative Energy Solutions, and Coleman Company, a manufacturer of camping and outdoor recreation supplies. Prior to its dissolution Air Midwest, the nation's first officially certificated "commuter" airline, was founded and based in Wichita, evolving into the nation's 8th largest regional airline.
The following is a summary of data regarding the Wichita metropolitan area labor force, 2004 annual average:
- Size of nonagricultural labor force: 282,800
Number of workers employed in:
- construction and mining: 16,100
- manufacturing: 58,400
- trade, transportation and utilities: 49,500
- information: 6,100
- financial activities: 12,200
- professional and business services: 26,300
- educational and health services: 38,400
- leisure and hospitality: 25,200
- other services: 12,100
- government: 38,500
Average hourly earnings of production workers employed in manufacturing: $19.45 (2004)
Unemployment rate: 6.3% (February 2005)
From the early to late 20th century, aircraft pioneers such as Clyde Cessna, "Matty" Laird, Lloyd Stearman, Walter Beech, Al Mooney and Bill Lear began aircraft-manufacturing enterprises that would lead to Wichita becoming the nation's leading city in numbers of aircraft produced. The aircraft corporations E. M. Laird Aviation Company (the nation's first successful commercial airplane manufacturer), Travel Air (started by Beech, Stearman and Cessna), Stearman, Cessna, Beechcraft and Mooney were all founded in Wichita between 1920 and early 1932. By 1931, Boeing (of Seattle, Washington) had absorbed Stearman, creating "Boeing-Wichita", which would eventually grow to become Kansas' largest employer.
Today, Cessna Aircraft Co. (the world's highest-volume airplane manufacturer) and Beechcraft remain based in Wichita having merged into Textron Aviation in 2014, along with Learjet and Boeing's chief subassembly supplier, Spirit AeroSystems. Airbus maintains a workforce in Wichita, and Bombardier (parent company of Learjet) has other divisions in Wichita as well. Over 50 other aviation businesses operate in the Wichita MSA, as well dozens of suppliers and subcontractors to the local aircraft manufacturers. In total, Wichita and its companies have manufactured an estimated 250,000 aircraft since Clyde Cessna's first Wichita-built aircraft in 1916.
In the early 2000s, a national and international recession combined with the after effects of the 9/11/2001 terrorist attacks to depress the aviation sub-sector in and around Wichita. Orders for new aircraft plummeted, prompting Wichita's five largest aircraft manufacturers, Boeing Co., Cessna Aircraft Co., Bombardier Learjet Inc., Hawker Beechcraft and Raytheon Aircraft Co.—to slash a combined 15,000 jobs between 2001 and 2004. In response, these companies began developing small- and mid-sized airplanes to appeal to business and corporate users. In 2007, Wichita built 977 aircraft, ranging from single-engine light aircraft to the world's fastest civilian jet; one-fifth of the civilian aircraft produced in United States that year, plus numerous small military aircraft. In early 2012, Boeing announced it would be closing its Wichita plant by the end of 2013.
The Wichita River Festival has been held in the Downtown and Old Town areas of the city since 1972. It has featured events, musical entertainment, sporting events, traveling exhibits, cultural and historical activities, plays, interactive children's events, a flea market, river events, a parade, block parties, a food court, fireworks and souvenirs for the roughly 370,000+ patrons who attend each year. In 2011, the festival was moved from May to June because of rain during previous festivals.
The annual Wichita Black Arts Festival, held in the spring, celebrates the arts, crafts and creativity of Wichita's large African-American community. It usually takes place in Central-Northeast Wichita. A Juneteeth event and parade also are common annual events.
The International Student Association at Wichita State University presents an annual international cultural exhibition and food festival, on the campus at WSU, providing an inexpensive sampling of global culture and cuisine to the general public.
One or more large Renaissance fairs occur annually, including the "RenFair" in conjuction with the "Kingdom of Calontir" of the SCA (Society for Creative Anachronism). The fairs vary in length from one day to a week, typically at Sedgwick County Park or Newman University.
The Wichita Public Library's Academy Awards Shorts program is reportedly the oldest annual, complete, free public screening outside of Hollywood of the full array of short films nominated for an Academy Award ("Oscar"). In late winter, shortly before the Academy Awards ceremonies, the films--including all nominated documentary, live action, and animated shorts--are presented, for free, at the Library and in local theaters and other venues around Wichita. Wichita's former Congressman, Motion Picture Association President Dan Glickman, has served as Honorary Chair of the event, and some of the filmmakers have attended and visited with the audiences.
The Tallgrass Film Festival has been held in downtown Wichita since 2003. It draws over 100 independent feature and short films from all over the world for three days each October. Notable people from the entertainment industry have attended in the past.
Aviation-related events are common in the Wichita area, including air shows, fly-ins, air races, aviation conferences, exhibitions, and trade shows. The city's two main air shows, which are generally held in alternating years, are the city-sponsored civilian Wichita Flight Festival (originally the "Kansas Flight Festival") and the military-sponsored McConnell Air Force Base Open House and Airshow. Both are large regional air shows with famous acts and multi-million-dollar aircraft displays (including many Wichita-built aircraft). In addition, numerous local, regional, and national aviation organizations host fly-ins, conferences, exhibitions and trade shows in the Wichita area on irregular schedules.
Points of interest
The City of Wichita is a cultural center for Kansas, home to several art and history museums and performing arts groups. The Music Theatre of Wichita, Wichita Grand Opera, and Wichita Symphony Orchestra perform regularly at the Century II Convention Hall downtown. The Orpheum Theatre, built in 1922, serves as a downtown venue for smaller shows.
Intrust Bank Arena features 22 suites, 2 party suites, 40 loge boxes and over 300 premium seats with a total potential capacity of over 15,000. This arena in the middle of Wichita opened in January 2010.
Small art galleries are scattered around the city with some clustered in the districts of Old Town, Delano and south Commerce street. These galleries started the Final Friday Gallery crawl event, where visitors tour attractions for free in the evening on the last Friday of each month. Larger museums began participating and staying open late on Final Fridays shortly after its beginning.
The Wichita Art Museum is the largest art museum in the state of Kansas, and contains 7,000 works in permanent collections. This museum is a hub of the city's museums along the Arkansas River: the Mid-America All-Indian Center, Old Cowtown living history museum, Exploration Place science and discovery center, The Keeper of the Plains statue and its associated display highlighting the daily lives of plains Indians, and Botanica, The Wichita Gardens. Botanica boasts 24 themed gardens including the popular Butterfly Garden and the award-winning Sally Stone Sensory Garden.
The Sedgwick County Zoo in the northwest part of Wichita is the most popular outdoor tourist attraction in the state of Kansas, and is home to more than 2,500 animals representing 500 different species. The zoo is next to Sedgwick county park and Sedgwick County Extension Arboretum.
The Wichita-Sedgwick County Historical Museum in downtown Wichita occupies the original Wichita city hall, built in 1892. The museum contains artifacts that tell the story of Wichita and Sedgwick County starting from 1865 and continuing to the present day.
Slightly east of downtown, Old Town was transformed in the early 1990s from an old warehouse district to a mixed-zone neighborhood with residential space, nightclubs, restaurants, hotels and museums, including the Museum of World Treasures and railroad oriented Great Plains Transportation Museum.
Moody's Skidrow Beanery, at 625 E. Douglas in what was to become Old Town, was one of the more famous places in Wichita in the 1960s. It was the scene of a nationally followed First Amendment struggle  and was visited by Allen Ginsberg in 1966 (the name had been changed to the Magic Theatre Vortex Art Gallery) where he first read his long poem "Wichita Vortex Sutra."
Wichita is also home to two major shopping malls: Towne East Square and Towne West Square, on opposite ends of town, and each managed by Simon Property Group. Each mall is home to four anchor stores, and has more than 100 tenants apiece. The oldest mall, Wichita Mall, was for many years largely a dead mall, but has since been converted into office space. There are also two large outdoor shopping centers, Bradley Fair on the city's north-east side and NewMarket Square on the city's north-west side, each with over 50 stores spread out on several acres.
In popular culture and the arts
Wichita has developed a positive reputation in U.S. media as an affordable and pleasant place to live. In July 2006, CNN/Money and Money ranked Wichita 9th on their list of the 10 best U.S. big cities in which to live. In 2008, MSN Real Estate ranked Wichita 1st on its list of most affordable cities. Wichita was also named the most "Uniquely American" city by Newsmax magazine in a May 2009 piece written by Peter Greenberg.
Wichita is mentioned in the songs "Wichita Skyline" by Shawn Colvin, "Seven Nation Army" by The White Stripes, and the song, "Captain Bobby Stout" by local musician Jerry Hahn. Allen Ginsberg wrote about a visit to Wichita in his poem Wichita Vortex Sutra, for which Philip Glass subsequently wrote a solo piano piece. Glen Campbell's Wichita Lineman, written by Jimmy Webb, peaked at #1 on Billboard's country singles chart and at #3 on the pop chart in 1968. Ruby Vroom, released by the band Soul Coughing in 1994, contains a song called "True Dreams of Wichita".
The city has been a setting of various works of fiction. The award-winning stage play Hospitality Suite written by Roger Rueff takes place in Wichita as does its 1999 film adaptation, The Big Kahuna. Wichita (1955) and portions of Wyatt Earp (1994), both of which dramatize the life and career of Wyatt Earp, are set in Wichita. The short-lived 1959-1960 television western Wichita Town was set during the city's early years. Other films wholly or partially set in the city include Good Luck, Miss Wyckoff (1979), Planes, Trains and Automobiles (1987), The Ice Harvest (2005), and Knight and Day (2010). Smallville, Clark Kent's childhood as well as his adolescent residence, is a town two hundred miles east of Wichita in the television series Smallville. The city is also the setting of the long-running comic strip Dennis the Menace.
Wichita is home to several professional, semi-professional, non-professional, and collegiate sports teams. Professional teams include the Wichita Thunder ice hockey team, Wichita Wild indoor football team, and Wichita Wingnuts baseball team. Defunct professionals teams which used to play in Wichita include the Wichita Aeros and Wichita Wranglers baseball teams and the Wichita Wings indoor soccer team. Semi-pro teams include the Kansas Cougars and Kansas Diamondbacks football teams. Non-professional teams include the Wichita Barbarians rugby union team and the Wichita World 11 cricket team.
Collegiate teams based in the city include the Wichita State University Shockers, Newman University Jets, and the Friends University Falcons. The WSU Shockers are NCAA Division I teams which compete in men's and women's basketball, baseball, volleyball, track and field, tennis, and bowling. The Newman Jets are NCAA Division II teams which compete in baseball, basketball, bowling, cross country, golf, soccer, tennis, wrestling, volleyball, and cheer/dance. The Friends Falcons compete in Region IV of the NAIA in football, volleyball, soccer, cross country, basketball, tennis, track and field, and golf.
Several sports venues are located in and around the city. Intrust Bank Arena, located downtown, is a 15,000-seat multi-purpose arena that is home to the Wichita Thunder. Lawrence-Dumont Stadium, located just west of downtown, is a medium-sized baseball stadium that has been home to Wichita's various minor-league baseball teams over the years. It is also home of the minor-league National Baseball Congress and the site of the Congress's annual National Tournament. Wichita Ice Arena, also just west of downtown, is a public ice-skating rink used for ice-skating competitions. In addition, Century II has been used for professional wrestling tournaments, sporting-goods exhibitions, and other recreational activity. The WSU campus includes two major venues: Eck Stadium, a medium-sized stadium with a full-sized baseball field that is home to the WSU Shocker baseball team, and Charles Koch Arena, a medium-sized, dome-roofed circular arena with a collegiate basketball court that hosts the WSU Shocker basketball team. Koch Arena is also used extensively for city-wide and regional high school athletic events, concerts and other entertainments. Located just north of the city is 81 Motor Speedway, an oval motor-vehicle racetrack used extensively for a wide range of car, truck and motorcycle races, and other motor sports events. Neighboring Park City is home to Hartman Arena and the Sam Fulco Pavilions, a moderate-capacity low-roofed arena developed for small rodeos, horse shows, livestock competitions, and exhibitions.
Under state statute, Wichita is a city of the first class. Since 1917, it has had a council-manager form of government. The city council consists of seven members popularly elected every four years with staggered terms in office. For representative purposes, the city is divided into six districts with one council member elected from each district. The mayor is the seventh council member, elected at large. The council sets policy for the city, enacts laws and ordinances, levies taxes, approves the city budget, and appoints members to citizen commission and advisory boards. The council meets each Tuesday. The city manager is the city’s chief executive, responsible for administering city operations and personnel, submitting the annual city budget, advising the city council, preparing the council’s agenda, and oversight of non-departmental activities.
The Wichita Police Department, established in 1871, is the city’s law enforcement agency. With over 800 employees, including more than 600 commissioned officers, it is the largest law enforcement agency in Kansas. The Wichita Fire Department, organized in 1886, operates 22 stations throughout the city. Organized into four battalions, it employs over 400 full-time firefighters.
As the county seat, Wichita is the administrative center of Sedgwick County. The county courthouse is located downtown, and most departments of the county government base their operations in the city.
Many departments and agencies of the U.S. Government have facilities in Wichita. The Wichita U.S. Courthouse, located downtown, is one of the three courthouses of the U.S. District Court for the District of Kansas. The U.S. Air Force operates McConnell Air Force Base immediately southeast of the city. The campus of the Robert J. Dole Department of Veterans Affairs Medical and Regional Office Center is located on U.S. 54 in east Wichita. Other agencies, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Food and Drug Administration, and Internal Revenue Service among others, have offices in locations around the city.
Wichita lies within Kansas's 4th U.S. Congressional District. For the purposes of representation in the Kansas Legislature, the city is located in the 25th through 31st districts of the Kansas Senate and the 83rd through 100th, 103rd, and 105th districts of the Kansas House of Representatives.
Primary and secondary education
With over 50,000 students, Wichita Public Schools (USD 259) is the largest school district in Kansas. It operates more than 90 schools in the city including 10 high schools, 16 middle schools, 61 elementary schools, and more than a dozen special schools and programs. Outlying portions of Wichita lie within suburban public school districts including Andover (USD 385), Circle (USD 375), Derby (USD 260), Goddard (USD 265), Haysville (USD 261), Maize (USD 266), and Valley Center (USD 262).
There are more than 35 private and parochial schools in Wichita. The Roman Catholic Diocese of Wichita oversees 16 Catholic schools in the city including 14 elementary schools and two high schools, Bishop Carroll Catholic High School and Kapaun Mt. Carmel High School. The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod operates two Lutheran schools in the city, Bethany Lutheran School (Grades PK-5) and Holy Cross Lutheran School (PK-8). There are also two Seventh-day Adventist schools in Wichita, Three Angels School (K-8) and Wichita Adventist Christian Academy (K-10). Other Christian schools in the city are Bethel Life School (K-8), Calvary Christian School (PK-12), Central Christian Academy (K-8), Sunrise Christian Academy (PK-12), Trinity Academy (9-12), Wichita Friends School (PK-6), and Word of Life Traditional School (K-12). In addition, there is an Islamic school, Anoor School (PK-8), operated by the Islamic Society of Wichita. Non-religious private schools in the city include Wichita Collegiate School and The Independent School as well as three Montessori schools.
Colleges and universities
Three universities have their main campuses in Wichita. The largest is Wichita State University (WSU), a four-year public university which has more than 14,000 students and is the third-largest university in Kansas. WSU's main campus is in northeast Wichita with four satellite campuses located around the metro area. Friends University, a private, non-denominational Christian university, has its main campus in west Wichita as does Newman University, a private Catholic university. In addition, Wichita Area Technical College, a two-year public college, has its main campus and two satellite locations in the city.
Several colleges and universities based outside Wichita operate satellite locations in and around the city. The University of Kansas School of Medicine has one of its three campuses in Wichita. Baker University, Butler Community College, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, Southwestern College, Tabor College, Vatterott College, and Webster University have Wichita facilities as do for-profit institutions including Heritage College, ITT Technical Institute, and University of Phoenix.
The Wichita Public Library is the city's library system, presently consisting of a Central Library downtown and nine branch locations in neighborhoods around the city. The library operates several free programs for the public, including special events, technology training classes, and programs specifically for adults, children, and families. As of 2009, its holdings included more than 1.3 million books and 2.2 million items total.
The Wichita Eagle, which began publication in 1872, is the city's major daily newspaper. With a daily circulation of approximately 67,000 copies, it has the highest circulation of any newspaper published in Kansas. The Wichita Business Journal is a weekly newspaper that covers local business events and developments. Several other newspapers and magazines, including local lifestyle and neighborhood publications, are also published in the city.
Wichita is the principal city of the Wichita-Hutchinson, Kansas television market which consists of the western two-thirds of the state. All of the market's network affiliates broadcast from Wichita with the ABC, CBS, Fox, and NBC affiliates serving the wider market through state networks of satellite and translator stations. The city also hosts a PBS member station, a Univision affiliate, and several low-power stations. Cable television service for Wichita and the surrounding area is provided by Cox Communications and AT&T.
Several federal and state highways pass through Wichita. Interstate 35, as the Kansas Turnpike, enters the city from the south and turns northeast, running along the city's southeastern edge and exiting through the eastern part of the city. Interstate 135 runs generally north-south through the city, its southern terminus lying at its interchange with I-35 in south-central Wichita. Interstate 235, a bypass route, passes through north-central, west, and south-central Wichita, traveling around the central parts of the city. Both its northern and southern termini are interchanges with I-135. U.S. Route 54 and U.S. Route 400 run concurrently through Wichita as Kellogg Avenue, the city's primary east-west artery, with interchanges, from west to east, with I-235, I-135, and I-35. U.S. Route 81, a north-south route, enters Wichita from the south as Broadway, turns east as 47th Street South for approximately half a mile, and then runs concurrently north with I-135 through the rest of the city. K-96, an east-west route, enters the city from the northwest, runs concurrently with I-235 through north-central Wichita, turns south for approximately a mile, running concurrently with I-135 before splitting off to the east and traveling around northeast Wichita, ultimately terminating at an interchange with U.S. 54/U.S. 400 in the eastern part of the city. K-254 begins at I-235's interchange with I-135 in north-central Wichita and exits the city to the northeast. K-15, a north-south route, enters the city from the south and joins I-135 and U.S. 81 in south-central Wichita, running concurrently with them through the rest of the city. K-42 enters the city from the southwest and terminates at its interchange with U.S. 54/U.S. 400 in west-central Wichita.
Wichita Transit operates 53 buses on 18 fixed bus routes within the city. The organization reports over 2 million trips per year (5,400 trips per day) on its fixed routes. Wichita Transit also operates a demand response paratransit service with 320,800 passenger trips annually. A 2005 study ranked Wichita near the bottom of the fifty largest American cities in terms of percentage of commuters using public transit. Only 0.5% used it to get to or from work. Greyhound Lines provides intercity bus service with a station in Wichita.
The Wichita Airport Authority manages the city's two main public airports, Wichita Mid-Continent Airport and Colonel James Jabara Airport. Located in the western part of the city, Mid-Continent Airport is the city's primary airport as well as the largest airport in the state of Kansas. Five commercial airlines (Allegiant, American, Delta, Southwest & United) serve Mid-Continent with non-stop flights to several U.S. airline hubs. Wichita Transit provides hourly daytime bus service to and from the airport six days a week. Jabara Airport is a general aviation facility located on the city's northeast side. In addition, there are several privately owned airports located throughout the city. Cessna Aircraft Field and Beech Factory Airport, operated by manufacturers Cessna and Beechcraft, respectively, lie in east Wichita. Two smaller airports, Riverside Airport and Westport Airport, are located in west Wichita.
Two Class I railroads, BNSF Railway and Union Pacific Railroad (UP), have lines which pass through Wichita. UP's OKT Line runs generally north-south through the city; north of downtown, the line consists of trackage leased to BNSF. An additional UP line enters the city from the northeast and terminates downtown. BNSF's main line through the city enters from the north, passes through downtown, and exits to the southeast, paralleling highway K-15. The Wichita Terminal Association, a joint operation between BNSF and UP, provides switching service on three miles (5 km) of track downtown. In addition, two lines of the Kansas and Oklahoma Railroad enter the city, one from the northwest and the other from the southwest, both terminating at their junction in west-central Wichita.
Wichita has not had passenger rail service since 1979. The nearest Amtrak station is in Newton 25 miles (40 km) north, offering service on the Southwest Chief line between Los Angeles and Chicago. Since 2008, however, Amtrak and the Kansas Department of Transportation have been studying the feasibility of restoring service via route options between Oklahoma City and Newton or Kansas City, Missouri.
A number of famous actors are from Wichita including Emmy and a Golden Globe winning actress Kirstie Alley, known for her role in the TV show Cheers, was born in Wichita and lives in the city part-time. Actor Don Johnson of Miami Vice and Nash Bridges along with various other television and movie roles, lived in Wichita throughout most of his childhood . Oscar winning actress and star of Gone with the Wind, Hattie McDaniel was born in Wichita.
Wyatt Earp served as a lawman in several Western frontier towns, including Wichita. He is best known for his part in the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral and as one of the Old West's "toughest and deadliest gunmen of his day."
Athletes including Pro Football Hall of Fame running backs Gale Sayers and Barry Sanders, Olympic athlete and Congressman Jim Ryun, Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer Lynette Woodard, and UFC flyweight fighter Tim Elliott were all born in Wichita.
Businessmen Charles and David Koch (Koch Industries), Dan and Frank Carney (Pizza Hut), Clyde Cessna (Cessna Aircraft), Walter Herschel Beech (Beech Aircraft Company), Bill Lear (Lear Jet), and Businesswoman Olive Ann Beech (Beech Aircraft Company) were all born in or lived in Wichita
American artist Bessie Callender, known for her sculptures of animals and her direct carving technique, was born in the Wichita area. She developed her interest in animals while growing up on a farm near Wichita.
Dennis Rader, a serial killer known as "BTK" (bind, torture kill), went to high school and college in Wichita and committed his murders in Wichita.
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- Wichita : Illustrated History 1868 to 1880; Eunice S. Chapter; 52 pages; 1914. (Download 3MB PDF eBook)
- History of Wichita and Sedgwick County Kansas : Past and present, including an account of the cities, towns, and villages of the county; 2 Volumes; O.H. Bentley; C.F. Cooper & Co; 454 / 479 pages; 1910. (Volume1 - Download 20MB PDF eBook),(Volume2 - Download 31MB PDF eBook)
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- City of Wichita
- Wichita - Directory of Public Officials
- Wichita Metro Chamber of Commerce
- Greater Wichita Convention & Visitors Bureau
- Wichita Area Sister Cities
- USD 259, local school district
- Wichita-Sedgwick County Historical Museum
- Discover Historic Wichita, Brochure with Map / List / Photos / Description of 121 Registered Historic Landmarks
- Carthalite - Wichita's Beautiful Concrete, Fall 2007 issue of American Bungalow magazine
- Wichita History at a Glance
- Wichita Photo Archives at WSU
- Wichita City Map, KSDOT