When the National Guard armory in Garden City closed due to state budget cuts and the city ended up with the property, an opportunity for local groups materialized.
The city opened the door to recommendations and requests for use of the 14,760-square-foot building at 405 S. Main St., with a Jan. 21 deadline for proposals.
On Tuesday, a couple of groups made their interest known, to include one intriguing idea to turn the former armory into a welcome center — sort of a "front door" for the community.
The Garden City Area Chamber of Commerce and Finney County Convention and Tourism Bureau envision a welcome center and office space for their organizations and others — local economic development entities and the Finney County United Way, for example.
While financial details of the plan need to be ironed out, the Chamber and CTB could generate income by leasing meeting space in the building.
But even greater potential would be in turning the building into a connecting point for newcomers and locals alike.
Most of the bigger events and attractions in Garden City and Finney County — from Lee Richardson Zoo offerings to the 3i Show and Beef Empire Days, among others — occur just steps from the armory.
Imagine the many visitors who head here for those events being able to stop by the new welcome center to learn more about what the community has to offer. Ditto for travelers who arrive at the nearby train depot.
A true welcome center would enhance efforts by local businesses and other organizations to reach people with their marketing campaigns.
Some would argue it makes more sense to sell the building to a for-profit enterprise, which would boost the local tax base and avoid any additional tax burden.
While there's some sense in that, such a development seems unlikely as the property probably will end up in the floodplain, and remodeling could be blocked by cost-prohibitive flood-proofing work.
When it comes to a nonprofit venture moving into the armory, it's important to consider the return on public investment of a welcome center.
Beyond the obvious potential for businesses trying to reach more visitors who come here to spend their dollars, the building could become a one-stop center for local residents seeking information on other community resources.
With a Sunflower Electric Power Corp. expansion on the horizon, and the population growth and new businesses it would bring, a more visible point for people to pick up information on what Garden City and Finney County have to offer — and a subsequent boost in activity around town — would indeed be welcome.
There also would be space for the Chamber and CTB to display samplings of local history and art that direct people to cultural attractions around town.
Another possibility discussed Tuesday also warrants additional thought. The Garden City Recreation Commission's pitch for a community/teen center was expected from an organization doing its best to keep youth busy with positive activities.
This city can't have enough places for teens to hang out and socialize in a safe environment. Local officials should be eager to help the rec expand its offerings.
But the armory location is so ideal for a welcome center, it's almost as if it was planned.
Moving forward, the building that served the local National Guard unit should become a venue that serves as a connecting point for residents and visitors.
The Chamber plan also could incorporate some features the Rec Commission proposed in its community center, to include activities that appeal to teens — making the building a true multipurpose center.
The armory most likely will remain a public facility. As such, it should be positioned to give back as much as possible to the community.
E-mail Editor-publisher Dena Sattler at email@example.com.