You don’t say

“The Century II performing arts center was problematic and badly designed; it was a 1960s building.”

Moody Blues tour manager Mark Hogue, quoted in a Facilities & Event Management story on how great he thinks  it is to have Hartman Arena as a venue option now


“I don’t want it to be misconstrued that I am ready to chain myself to the front of the building to keep away the wrecking ball … but I have loved working here for 27 years.”

Music Theatre of Wichita producing artistic director Wayne Bryan, who says Century II isn’t perfect (he says “it deserves improvement or replacement”) but has flexibly accommodated many activities in its more than 45 years

Hartman Arena lands cover of trade publication

WICHITA — Hartman Arena has landed on the cover of Facilities & Event Management, a trade publication for the venue business.

It’s not just any cover, says arena general manager Aran Rush. It’s the booking issue.

“This is huge,” Rush says. “The timing is everything.”

He says the biggest booking conference of the year is in Nashville in two weeks.

Rush says Iowa-based VenuWorks, which manages Hartman Arena, “has a really good relationship with” the publication.

The article delved into the arena’s five years in business and the Wichita market as well.

“Every market has their reputation,” Rush says.

Read More »

You don’t say

“It’s scary. It’s like caution, meet wind.”

Jared Estes on leaving a steady job at Hartman Arena to become a motivational speaker

Hartman Arena has a new general manager

UPDATED – James Snodgrass is out as the third general manager of the 5-year-old Hartman Arena, but he’s reluctant to discuss it.

“They still haven’t given me a reason why I was let go.”

Snodgrass, who was hired in spring 2011, won’t say more.

“I would like to take the high road on this one.”

Arena owner Wink Hartman Sr. says he didn’t make the decision alone.

“It was a group decision with VenuWorks, his employer, having the final decision,” Hartman says.

“It’s been our view all along that we were going to take a look and evaluate and … see if a change was necessary,” says John Siehl, regional vice president for VenuWorks.

He says the company decided “to bring in a person that we had picked so that we could improve the program and the operation.”

Aran Rush is the new general manager for Hartman Arena. Rush most recently was executive director for the Sioux City, Iowa, events facilities department, which included the convention and visitors bureau and the Tyson Events Center. Siehl says Rush is new to VenuWorks.

Hartman says if there are leadership issues at the arena, “I take full responsibility.”

He says he doesn’t think there have been problems with leadership, but he says the arena isn’t where it should be financially.

“The production of events at the arena can significantly increase, and hopefully it will,” Hartman says.

Read More »

Cattleman’s Ball returns along with criticism of its potential venue

WICHITA — The Cattleman’s Ball will be returning to the Wichita social scene with a new name and a bit of controversy, it seems.

The newly named Cattle Baron’s Ball is a fundraiser for the American Cancer Society.

A spokeswoman says the group “took some time off to re-invigorate” the event, which was last held in 2011.

The party has been held at various places through the years, and it looks as if the next one is going to be held at the equestrian arena of the Kansas Star Casino.

Wink Hartman Sr., who has the competing Hartman Arena in Park City, says he finds the situation “sickening.”

“The one organization that’s supposed to stand up for clean air is willing to look the other way and book events at an establishment that has smoking,” he says. “I just can’t believe what they’re doing.”

The casino has smoking, but the equestrian arena does not.

“The truth is they’re going to drag those people down there, and I find it hard to believe a percentage aren’t going to go into a casino filled with smoke due to the American Cancer Society’s invitation to go down there,” Hartman says.

Read More »

Wink Hartman Sr. hires Iowa-based VenuWorks to manage Hartman Arena

Wink Hartman

WICHITA — A new company is going to manage the 4-year-old, 7,200-seat Hartman Arena in Park City.

Wink Hartman Sr. has hired Iowa-based VenuWorks, which will book events and handle food and beverage services among other things

Previously, Hartman and his staff have been running the arena.

“I was not doing a very good job,” Hartman says.

“We need to book more events. You know, more concerts, more local events, and I just felt like it was a time for a change in management to try to meet our objectives.”

VenuWorks president Steven Peters started the company 16 years ago to manage arenas with 5,000 to 10,000 seats.

The company manages United Wireless Arena in Dodge City and the Topeka Performing Arts Center.

Peters says his goal with Hartman Arena is clear.

“One word: events. We’ve got to bring more events.”

Hartman Arena has been averaging close to 50 events a year, including soccer games with Hartman’s Wichita Wings and football games with his Wichita Wild.

“Most of our arenas, we try to do 90 a year,” Peters says.

Being the smaller arena to the larger Intrust Bank Arena isn’t a negative, he says.

“That can be the really enviable place to be.”

Peters says there are more shows to fill 6,000 seats than 12,000.

Read More »

City Council member Michael O’Donnell II takes job with Wink Hartman Sr.

WICHITA — Wichita City Council member Michael O’Donnell II has a new job.

After more than six years of working in sales for Clear Channel Radio, O’Donnell is going to work for Wink Hartman Sr. He’s done some past work for Hartman, but never full time.

“He’s spread so thin,” O’Donnell says. “He owns over 50 companies. I don’t know how he does it.”

O’Donnell will handle public relations, communications and government affairs for Hartman, which includes his Hartman Arena, restaurants and other companies.

“Everything,” O’Donnell says.

Although Hartman occasionally has a zoning issue that comes before the planning commission, O’Donnell says he’s not a regular in front of City Council, so he doesn’t expect a conflict of interest to arise.

“He never asks for any sort of incentives,” O’Donnell says. “Wink’s a do-it-yourself kind of guy.”

He adds, “If there ever was an issue … I would obviously recuse myself from that.”

Original Mort’s Martini and Cigar Bar owner Morrie Sheets buys back the business with his brother, Matt Sheets

WICHITA — After much soul searching, John Whitmer has decided not to buy Mort’s Martini and Cigar Bar, which his late brother, Frank, owned.

Frank Whitmer, who died last month, left the popular Old Town bar to his mother.

“The number one thing was, if my mother was going to sell it, the most important thing was to make sure she got the most bang for the buck,” John Whitmer says. “She’s not going to sell it to me just because.”

He wanted to make sure if he bought it, he was buying it for the right reason.

“I really was struggling with the concept,” says Whitmer, who is general manager of Hartmoor Concessions at Hartman Arena.

“Am I really doing this because of trying to maintain a connection with my brother      . . . or is this really what I want to do?”

He decided against it and is happy that his brother’s close friends Morrie and Matt Sheets have purchased it instead.

“They’ll do a fantastic job,” Whitmer says. “Better than I.”

Morrie Sheets was the original owner of Mort’s and later sold it to Frank Whitmer.

John Whitmer says it was important to his family to sell the bar to the right person to carry it on as Mort’s.

He says the question was, “Who do we sell it to that isn’t going to turn it into a Subway sandwich shop or demolish it and turn it into parking?”

Whitmer says his No. 1 reason for not buying the bar is he’s almost certain he’s going to run for the state House of Representatives next year.

“Mort’s is a prestigious bar in Old Town,” Whitmer says. “Even as a Republican, owning a bar is not that big a deal.”

However, he says it’s not his calling.

“My path lies in a different direction,” Whitmer says. “One of the last conversations that (Frank) and I had, he told me how proud he was of the stuff I’ve been doing lately and how I was getting into politics.”

He gets emotional when he says, “My brother told me he’d vote for me.”

Whitmer says that was powerful for him to hear since his brother was 14 years older.

“I think I spent a lot of my life trying to impress him and get his approval, and I think maybe that’s why I wanted to buy Mort’s in the first place.”

You don’t say

“I’m on a strict diet of red bull and Hershey miniatures until today is done.”

— An e-mail from Hartman Arena’s Jared Estes, who is dealing with the cancellation of  Nickelodeon star Miranda Cosgrove’s show tonight due to a bus accident and is fielding calls from people who “don’t want a refund, they want us to uncrash Miranda’s bus so they don’t have to tell their 6 year old she’s not coming this weekend”

You don’t say

“As long as he doesn’t limit my midday 30 minute Spongebob break I’m sure we will get along fine.”

Hartman Arena marketing director Jared Estes in an e-mail about new general manager James Snodgrass