Though work began Wednesday, the official groundbreaking for $13 million in improvements to the Salina Bicentennial Center was Thursday morning.

Standing in the planter in the center’s lobby, city commissioners and center management used ceremonial shovels to turn over some symbolic soil.

The city has been discussing upgrades to the Bicentennial Center for more than a year, and upgrades to the arena’s lighting and sound system have already been completed.

Next up are renovations to the concourse, arena, administrative offices, kitchen, the plaza to the north of the building, repaving the parking lot, upgrading the heating and air conditioning, and improving handicap access.

“It was a big decision for us,” Mayor Aaron Householter said. “It’s something that’s been needed for a long time.”

Householter also praised Global Spectrum, the company hired by the city several years ago to manage the center, for pushing for the upgrades.

“They’ve shown us what this facility could be,” Householter said.

Householter added that some of the improvements are “things that should have been done initially” when the building was built 35 years ago. Some of the work, including the upgrades to heating and air conditioning systems and the parking lot “are not real exciting but are needed,” Householter said.

The work is being scheduled so as to not interfere with events at the center.

“We have a long road ahead as we operate the facility,” said Bicentennial Center general manager Ron Rideout, who said his goal is to push levels of expectation as high as they can go.

Work is scheduled to take about nine months and be completed in September.

“I look forward to seeing all of you at the closing ceremony to celebrate,” Rideout said.