Wichita Hays beat out Lawrence, Manhattan and Wichita to earn a company's distinction as the best college town in Kansas.
Hays, home of Fort Hays State University, rates in the top 40 best college towns to live in, according to ePodunk, an information company focused on American cities.
The north-central Kansas town placed third in the small-town category, behind Bozeman, Mont., and Charlottesville, Va., and just ahead of Boulder, Colo.,
"I will not kid you for a minute, I was not the only person surprised that we are being listed ahead of Boulder, Colo.," said Cent Steward, director of university relations for Fort Hays. "But Hays is an amazing place. It is an incredible place."
The company gave a top 10 list for big cities, medium-size cities, small cities and towns.
Hays has a population of 20,013 and qualified for the small cities list, as did Lawrence and Manhattan. Wichita, with a population of 355,000, competed in the big city category and didn't even make the list.
Hays was ahead of sixth-ranked Manhattan, home of Kansas State University, and 20th-ranked Lawrence, home of Kansas University.
Wichita Mayor Bob Knight said Wichita had a lot to offer.
"There is no question that this city and many others in Kansas have a wonderful quality of life," Knight said. "It says legions about our state that so many towns in Kansas were chosen."
Officials with the Internet company that created the listing say on their Web site http:// ePodunk.com that a person's definition of a great college town depends on whether the person is a student, faculty member, resident, retiree or tourist.
The listing was based on 15 variables, including population changes, per-capita income, entertainment, restaurants, historic sites and public-library holdings, said Laurie Bennett, chief executive of ePodunk.
"Prior to this, most kinds of studies you saw about college towns were based on student surveys," Bennett said. "We were also looking for places alumni may want to live and employers locate because more and more people are looking to move to communities with colleges because they traditionally have a lot going on economically, socially and culturally."
Steward said folks in Hays were pleased though not necessarily surprised with the town's ranking. He noted that Hays was an All American City in 1996, and that the Hays Public Library boasts one of the highest per-capita circulations in the nation. He also said more than 70 percent of Hays residents participated in a voluntary recycling program.