With over 360,000 residents, Wichita is the largest city in Kansas. It is also the county seat of Sedgwick County, and a regional shopping, medical, and entertainment hub for the more than one million people who live within a 100-mile radius. Over the years, Wichita has grown by annexing nearby communities. The city's total land area is currently 160 square miles.
Wichita's roots go back to the arrival of the Santa Fe Railway in 1872. The railroad turned the community into a boom town that processed agriculture products and distributed farm equipment. In 1914, the discovery of oil further expanded the city's economic base. Today, Wichita is a large manufacturing center, with many residents working shift work. Residents enjoy solid educational opportunities, numerous parks, and a cost of living that is slightly below the national average.
ECONOMY AND INDUSTRIES
Manufacturing accounts for 65,000 jobs, or more than 21 percent of all jobs in the region. The largest sector of the manufacturing industry is aviation. In fact, makers of aircraft and aircraft parts are the three largest employers in the Wichita area. Other major industries include professional and business services, education, healthcare, and leisure and hospitality. Eight companies in the Wichita area employ 3,000 or more workers. They are:
- Cessna Aircraft Company
- Spirit AeroSystems
- Hawker Beechcraft
- Wichita Unified School District 259
- Via Christi Health System
- State of Kansas
- City of Wichita
Nearly 20 colleges, universities, and technical schools are located in and around Wichita. Some have just a few hundred students and a few degree programs. Others offer hundreds of fields of study to thousands of students. Major schools include:
- Baker University, Wichita's oldest university
- Bethel College, a private, Christian liberal arts college
- Friends University, a Christian four-year liberal arts school
- Wichita State University, a four-year public school with an enrollment of nearly 15,000 students
- WSU College of Engineering, which is locally and nationally recognized for its student research and development programs
NEIGHBORHOODS AND DISTRICTS
- Downtown Wichita is the city's commercial, cultural, and government center. Nearly four million square feet of office space is located downtown, along with a convention center and the Intrust Bank Arena. Buildings and warehouses are being renovated into apartments and lofts, and new residents are being attracted to downtown.
- Eastborough and the College Hill neighborhoods are full of historic homes that were built during the early to mid-1900s. Locally owned restaurants and shops line brick roads.
- Riverside is a neighborhood of bungalows and Victorian homes along the Arkansas River that is known for its sprawling parks and lush trees.
- North Wichita and East Wichita are growing neighborhoods of recently constructed apartments and homes. Residents enjoy easy access to shopping and golf courses. The northwestern area is the fastest-growing section of the city, with new shopping plazas, restaurants, and master-planned communities.
- West Wichita is an established neighborhood of trees, ponds, and homes built in the 1960s.
Leisure activities abound in Wichita. More than 100 tree-filled city parks and greenways provide 4,300 acres of recreation space. Art lovers can check out museums and theater productions. Sports lovers can grab their golf clubs and head to one of the city's nine public and five private golf courses. Some of the cultural attractions include:
- Exploration Place: This is a hands-on museum for kids and adults. Permanent and traveling exhibits cover topics such as dinosaurs, Kansas's natural history, medieval castles, and aviation.
- Kansas Aviation Museum: This museum is dedicated to preserving the heritage of aviation in Kansas. Visitors learn about Kansas's role in the aircraft industry, as well as the past, present, and future of flight.
- Sedgwick County Zoo: This growing zoo showcases animals from as far away as Australia and South America and as close as the North American prairie. A 15,000-square-foot learning center includes classrooms, an auditorium, and a library.
- Wichita Art Museum: This is the largest art museum in Kansas. Its permanent collection includes nearly 7,000 works that span three centuries of American art. Visitors can view masterpieces by Mary Casset, Horace Pippin, and Edward Hopper, or even create their own masterpieces at a family-friendly interactive exhibit.
Sports fans have plenty to cheer about in Wichita. Besides NCAA sports at area colleges and universities, the city has two minor-league teams. The Wichita Wingnuts are a member of the American Association of Professional Baseball and play about 48 home games a year at Lawrence Dumont Stadium. The team's inaugural season was 2008. The Wichita Thunder has been playing in the Central Hockey League since its inception in 1992. Home games are played at the 9,686-seat Britt Brown Arena.