Category Archives: Arena

Don’t give up on Intrust Bank Arena’s NCAA dream

It was baffling and frustrating to see Intrust Bank Arena again fail to make the list of sites for early rounds of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament, forcing the community dream to be deferred until 2016 at the earliest. Didn’t the strong attendance and fine hospitality Wichita showed for the 2011 NCAA women’s tournament make a favorable enough impression? Perhaps the selection team missed the electricity and record-setting house of the recent NBA preseason game – which prompted Oklahoma City Thunder coach Scott Brooks to say, “There aren’t many non-NBA arenas as nice as this building.” Didn’t the NCAA at least hear about the big, enthusiastic crowds that have been drawn to the arena by the Wichita State University and Kansas State University men’s basketball games? Whatever the reason for the latest snub, arena officials and Wichita leaders must keep after the goal of hosting part of the big dance, which was part of what inspired the community eight years ago to build a downtown arena.

Downtown Wichita events show drawing power

Wichita’s reputation for being a hard place to draw a crowd is at serious risk. Exploration Place’s exhibition of “Star Wars: Where Science Meets Imagination” attracted more than 57,000 visitors between Memorial Day and Labor Day, behind only its earlier “Titanic” and “Our Body: The Universe Within” exhibitions. And Theatre League’s four-week run of Disney’s “The Lion King” at Century II during September made Wichita history for drawing 60,000 people and grossing $4.3 million (compared with the 45,000 who saw the 24-performance run of “Wicked” in 2009). Meanwhile, the Intrust Bank Arena came in 33rd in the country and 67th in the world in third-quarter year-to-date attendance on Pollstar’s ranking of Top 200 Arena Venues, with nearly 125,000 tickets sold. Such numbers demonstrate the size and buying power of the south-central Kansas audience, when presented with what it sees as a compelling reason to come and spend money in downtown Wichita on a traveling show.

Strong start to year at arena’s box office

Congratulations to Intrust Bank Arena for ranking 19th among U.S. arenas for first-quarter ticket sales and 43rd worldwide, according to Pollstar magazine. The arena’s March 16 concert by Jason Aldean, with a crowd of 13,882, also came in at No. 5 in the world for arenas with 10,001-15,000 seats between March 7 and April 4, as ranked by Venues Today’s Hot Tickets report. The strong start in 2012 for Sedgwick County’s 2-year-old downtown arena is particularly encouraging given the rough patches of 2011. Now, if only the arena’s SMG management team could coax promoters into bringing more diverse acts to Wichita. For example, Kansas City’s Sprint Center (seventh worldwide in the first quarter) hosted Drake and Radiohead last month, and the upcoming acts at Tulsa’s BOK Center (37th worldwide) include the Black Keys, Van Halen, LMFAO and the Red Hot Chili Peppers.

Hope for a WSU-KSU matchup at downtown arena?

Former Wichita state Rep. Todd Novascone used to introduce a bill each legislative session that would require the University of Kansas and Kansas State University to play Wichita State University. Last week state Sen. Carolyn McGinn, R-Sedgwick, raised the issue with K-State president Kirk Schulz when he appeared before her Senate Ways and Means Committee. “I was just curious when you will be scheduling Wichita State to play Kansas State,” McGinn said. Schulz said that such as game would “be a terrific thing” but that his athletic director and basketball coach “would rather play Alcorn State than Wichita State.” McGinn said that the game would be good for the state and noted that Intrust Bank Arena would be an ideal venue. Schulz responded that the arena was a great environment when K-State played West Virginia there in December. “We want to make sure that we’re back in Wichita,” he said.

So they said

“I like Fleetwood Mac.… I just had to get my plug in for Stevie Nicks.” – Sedgwick County Commissioner Tim Norton (in photo), about the goal of a greater variety of acts for Intrust Bank Arena in 2012

“Make hay while the sun’s out. I think the sun’s out.” – Gov. Sam Brownback, speaking at a Rural Opportunities Conference in Salina

“OU is the 800-pound gorilla and your support is critical.” – former Kansas Sen. Bob Dole, in a September e-mail urging University of Oklahoma president David Boren to keep OU in the Big 12

“They only offend once.” – James Ludwig, Westar Energy executive vice president, on squirrels’ status as the No. 2 cause of power outages (after trees)

Wichita is a good concert town after all

It’s getting hard to recall that not so long ago, promoters had little regard for Wichita as a concert market. Venues Today magazine just ranked Sedgwick County’s Intrust Bank Arena first and private Hartman Arena ninth for 2010 gross ticket sales when each is compared with like-size Midwest venues. With $13.9 million in gross ticket sales, Intrust Bank Arena did significantly better than the second- and third-place finishers. The local venues’ strong year coincided with a terrible one for the 50 top-grossing North American tours, which saw ticket revenue drop 15 percent in 2010 after growing 15 years in a row.

‘White elephant’ made a million bucks

The big check may have been a little over the top. But it was a big deal that Intrust Bank Arena had $1.1 million in 2010 profits to hand over to Sedgwick County, its owner, at Wednesday’s County Commission meeting. The presentation by arena general manager A.J. Boleski confirmed that the facility had a great opening year, defying critics’ predictions that it would be a white elephant (though critics still complain that the arena’s profit calculation doesn’t include depreciation costs). To their credit, county officials are recognizing that the arena’s 2010 performance is no guarantee of future results. Though they might like to have the cash to help with the county budget crunch, officials are prudently adding it to the arena reserve fund, to offset future costs at both the arena and the Kansas Pavilions.

Intrust Bank Arena realizing hoop dreams

Fresh off its impressive performance hosting the NCAA women’s tournament, Intrust Bank Arena has booked a Dec. 8 game between the men of Kansas State University and West Virginia University, pitting current KSU coach Frank Martin against predecessor Bob Huggins. What’s more, the University of Kansas and University of Southern California men are working on plans to play a December game at Wichita’s year-old downtown arena. These are just the kind of contests, with big-name teams and significant regional drawing power, that arena proponents dreamed of all along.

Arena making money, not losing it

Even die-hard opponents of Intrust Bank Arena have to be pleased that the arena netted more than $2 million in its first year. Sedgwick County Commissioner Karl Peterjohn noted at Wednesday’s commission meeting that the profit doesn’t include the cost of depreciation, as a private company’s income statement would. But a main concern of opponents was that the arena would be a white elephant that drained the county’s budget. So far that’s not happening. Also, the predicted nightmare traffic problems never happened. And though the arena likely benefited from an initial honeymoon period, it is continuing to book top-flight acts, which should help it cover its operating costs.

Intrust Bank Arena had a very good first year

Sedgwick County’s Intrust Bank Arena, which celebrates its first anniversary with a party from 2 to 6 p.m. today, certainly stood out in a year in which gross revenue was down 13 percent for the music concert industry nationwide. Based on its 251,319 in ticket sales for 2010, the venue ranked 23rd in the United States and 46th in the world, according to Pollstar. In the process, the arena and manager SMG seem to be debunking Wichita’s reputation as a town that can only draw a crowd for a country concert. The challenges for 2011: to deftly handle the first- and second-round games of the NCAA Women’s Division I Basketball Tournament in March and to book more diverse acts, including hip-hop and R&B stars. The bad year for concertgoing nationally did bring the good news that ticket prices are likely to decline in 2011. “We know that if you lower the price, they’ll come,” Michael Rapino, the CEO of Live Nation, told investors in November.

We can say, ‘We saw them in Wichita’

Thanks to its new Intrust Bank Arena, Wichita had the opportunity to enjoy 18 of Pollstar’s top 50 North American concert tours of the year, including No. 1 Bon Jovi, No. 3 Dave Matthews Band, No. 4 Michael Buble (in photo) and No. 5 Eagles. The No. 12 act, Cirque du Soleil’s “Alegria,” finishes its arena run today. Another act, No. 39 “Rain: A Tribute to the Beatles,” played Century II in March. The big ones that stayed away? Paul McCartney, Lady Gaga, James Taylor/Carole King, the Black Eyed Peas, John Mayer and Justin Bieber (though Taylor is rumored to be coming April 30).

Arena standing out for its crowds

arenainsideDespite being dark in September, the Intrust Bank Arena ranked 21st in the nation and 43rd in the world in third-quarter ticket sales, according to Pollstar — a fact that says as much about the concert business’ hard times as about the new Sedgwick County venue’s drawing power. To the credit of arena management SMG, Intrust Bank Arena has hosted 13 of the top 25 worldwide tours so far in 2010, and another is scheduled — Cirque du Soleil’s “Alegria,” Dec. 29-Jan. 2.

More accessible parking means more access

arenaeveningGood for Intrust Bank Arena officials for adding 13 on-site handicapped parking spaces last week, bringing the total to 37 slots just in time for the Wichita Thunder’s new season and Tuesday’s concert by country star Carrie Underwood. The numbers of available spaces could differ from event to event, and parking costs $4 per car. But it’s crucial that this public venue be accessible and welcoming to all customers, unlike the outdated facility it replaced at the Kansas Coliseum complex.

Take long view on arena

arenaeveningAfter six strong opening months, the Intrust Bank Arena’s $60,000 loss in July was predictable. Arena booking is a cyclical business that changes with the seasons and economy. The summer has been brutal for touring acts nationally, prompting even the biggest names to cancel or shuffle dates. The local numbers will be worse for September, which has no bookings. (Oklahoma City’s Ford Center also has no events this month, and Tulsa’s BOK Center and Kansas City’s Sprint Center only have two each.) The good news is that Sedgwick County’s unusual contract with SMG calls for the management firm to cover any losses. And though the monthly reports to the Sedgwick County Commission are useful and informative, the arena’s performance will be best assessed not month to month but year to year.

Intrust Bank Arena has bucked trend

arenapaisleyCongratulations to Intrust Bank Arena for ranking 17th in the nation and 39th in the world in ticket sales during the first half of 2010, according to Pollstar magazine. That’s quite a debut for the Sedgwick County-owned facility, which has only been open since Jan. 9. Who knew Wichita could sell more seats in six months — 135,751 total — than Omaha’s Qwest Center and Denver’s Pepsi Center? And Intrust Bank Arena hosted 10 of the period’s top 20 acts in the United States, including No. 1 Bon Jovi, No. 3 Taylor Swift and the No. 5 bill of Reba McEntire, George Strait and Lee Ann Womack. But it’s best to temper expectations for the rest of the year: These are sobering times for the national concert market, which saw a 17 percent drop in business the first half of the year. One likely reason showed up in a new Rasmussen Reports poll: 70 percent of adults think concert ticket prices are too high.

Wrestlers are returning

wrestlingintrustIt’s great that the Hartman Arena will host next year’s state high school Class 6A and 5A wrestling tournaments. Though it would have been nice if Intrust Bank Arena had continued to host the tournaments, the Hartman Arena was a better fit, both in size and cost. And the priority was keeping the tournament in the area, not the specific venue. Congratulations to all involved in securing the tournaments.

Cheaper to see it here

arena1A recent letter in The Eagle claimed that people “can drive to Tulsa to see an act and save a fair amount over what they’d spend to see the same act at Intrust Bank Arena.” Not so, at least judging from ticket prices for some events upcoming at both Wichita’s arena and Tulsa’s BOK Center. Ticket prices align for Michael Buble, the Jonas Brothers, Carrie Underwood and Rascal Flatts, and Wichitans can pay less to see Celtic Woman and Rush. Factor in gas and other travel expenses, and it’s even cheaper to catch a show here.

Arena’s performance deserves applause

arenapaisleySedgwick County could get used to this: The Intrust Bank Arena made $1.24 million in profit on the 37 events held in its first four months. Even County Commission Chairman Karl Peterjohn, who led the opposition before the 2004 arena-tax vote, sounded impressed upon hearing the monthly report at Wednesday’s commission meeting. It’s a concern that the average attendance has been 3,857, given the arena’s 15,000-seat capacity. And the bookings will slow this summer. But this strong start is a great relief, especially considering the economy.

Arena had a grand March

arenaIt’s great news for the community that the honeymoon for Sedgwick County’s Intrust Bank Arena and ticket buyers continued during March, generating net building income of nearly $1 million since the Jan. 9 opening. The pace of events and profits will slow over the summer, cautioned SMG regional oversight manager Gary Desjardins and Assistant County Manager Ron Holt. But they said Wichita already has enjoyed a number of events that wouldn’t have played the market if not for the arena, including Taylor Swift, Bon Jovi, Billy Joel/Elton John, George Strait/Reba McEntire, “Walking With Dinosaurs” and the Professional Bull Riders. As Sedgwick County Commissioner Dave Unruh said upon hearing the monthly report: “We planned our work and we worked our plan, and it’s working out.”

More of the same from Parks

parkskellyGood for state Rep. Brenda Landwehr, R-Wichita, for challenging the Sedgwick County Commission’s 3-2 vote in March to use $1.6 million from the arena sales-tax fund to pay for county staff time. In an e-mail to commissioners, Landwehr raised some of the same concerns The Eagle editorial board had about how the transfer violated a pledge to voters. But it was disappointing to read Commissioner Kelly Parks’ (in photo) response to Landwehr, in which he ranted about Intrust Bank Arena and said he couldn’t wait until it eventually was torn down. Just as bad, Parks forwarded to three other commissioners and an Eagle reporter the response from Commissioner Dave Unruh to Landwehr — in which Unruh thanked Landwehr and agreed with her analysis. Parks’ comment: “Here’s Dave’s feeble reply.” Of course, earlier this year Parks wrote “screw you” in an e-mail to a Wichita resident — so we’ve come to expect as much.

Arena off to a great start

arenapaisleyThe first two months of operations at Intrust Bank Arena likely benefited from heightened public interest in the new facility. So it remains to be seen if the arena’s initial success will continue in the coming months and years — though it has yet to show any signs of slowing and continues to book top acts. Even naysayers have to be pleased that the arena’s net income for January and February, excluding depreciation, was $321,709. “I’m glad we’re taking in more money than we’re spending,” Sedgwick County Commission Chairman (and former arena opponent) Karl Peterjohn managed to say. And despite predictions by some that Wichita couldn’t support an arena, that’s not the case so far. Pollstar rated the arena 45th worldwide for ticket sales in the first quarter of the year, ahead of Denver and Oklahoma City.

Time to give up arena fight

arenainsideThe majority of Sedgwick County commissioners did future commissions no favors Wednesday in voting to use $1.6 million in arena sales-tax revenue to reimburse the county for county staff time spent on Intrust Bank Arena through 2008. By drawing down arena reserves now, commissioners hastened by perhaps four years the time when the arena’s reserves could run dry. The move also redefines the purpose of the arena sales tax in a way that doesn’t reflect the 2004 ballot question approved by voters. With the transfer, Commissioner Dave Unruh said, “we’re using sales-tax money to support the county budget for functions that we would do normally and naturally.” Perhaps as troubling was the bitter tone of the majority commissioners’ discussion about the revenue transfer, including talk of “fraud.” The fact is, the arena was approved, paid for and built. In just two months of operation, it has changed the quality of life in Wichita dramatically. County commissioners ought to stop fighting it.

Palin coming to Wichita; no word on four horsemen

McCain Palin 2008An Opinion Line comment Monday asked: “Is there anything in the book of Revelations about Sarah Palin coming to Salina?” Well, now she is coming to Wichita, too. Palin will be at Intrust Bank Arena on May 2.

Peterjohn as arena booster

peterjohnThe most surprising sight of 2010 so far was of a beaming Sedgwick County Commissioner Karl Peterjohn amid the Intrust Bank Arena’s opening hoopla Saturday. When he was executive director of the Kansas Taxpayers Network, Peterjohn led the anti-arena opposition, declaring that it “will not create permanent jobs or improve the local economy” and predicting proponents of the arena-tax ballot question would “get overwhelmingly clobbered outside Wichita and maybe in Wichita, too.” Still, Peterjohn deserves credit for showing up Saturday and also for recognizing, as he told The Eagle, that “the vote in 2004 is history, and we need to make this facility work as best we can for all the citizens of Sedgwick County.”

Big-time acts keep coming to arena

bubleTaxpayers built it, and the big acts keep coming to the Intrust Bank Arena. Last week brought news that Dave Matthews Band will perform Aug. 14, that Michael Buble (in photo) will perform June 23, and that interactive show “Walking with Dinosaurs” will be here April 21-25. Arena officials also recently announed that Daughtry will perform May 24. These acts join other top performers, including Taylor Swift, George Strait and Reba McEntire, Bon Jovi, Billy Joel and Elton John, and Nickelback. And contrary to all the moaning and groaning before the arena opened earlier this month, parking has so far not been a big problem.