Wichita arena lands a whopper

The Intrust Bank Arena in downtown Wichita has landed NCAA women’s basketball first- and second-round tournament games in 2011.

Recently, the NCAA bypassed the Wichita arena when selecting sites for men’s NCAA games. On KAKE TV, arena manager Chris Presson said women’s games are a testing ground for something “perceived to be bigger. … Certainly the women’s to us is as big as the men’s and is as big a deal to us as the men’s would be. We’re more than content, more than happy with what we’ve got.”

According to Associated Press reporting from earlier this year, “The first two rounds drew an average of 4,100 people.” The Wichita Eagle reports 4,915 averages attendance for all tournament games.

Is Presson being reasonable: women’s games, at 4,100 per game, are equivalent to men’s games, which are likely to sell out the arena? It’s his job to promote the arena, but statements like this are not reasonable.

The publicly-supported arena in downtown Wichita remains a contentious issue. Comments left to a recent post of mine about the arena provide some insight into the thinking of arena tax supporters.

One comment writer said that instead of complaining, I should be supporting the arena. He may have forgotten the extra sales tax that I contributed to pay for the arena. Doesn’t that count?

Another wrote: “My question to you is since the arena has been built, do you want it to succeed or fail?” I guess this writer didn’t read the final sentence of the post, which is: “Ultimately, it is the Sedgwick County taxpayer who is financially responsible for the arena, and it is they who must hope for success.”

So yes, I do hope that the arena is a success. As someone who is opposed to taxation — that’s why I opposed the arena sales tax ballot measure — I sincerely hope that tax revenues are not required to support the arena. Arena tax supporters have already shown that they’re willing to tax one person to build a playhouse for themselves, so I don’t suspect they’ll be opposed to future tax support of the arena, should it become necessary.

10 Comments

  • Hey, local taxpayers never wriggled off the AirTran hook, and now ALL Kansans pay that tax! That’s surely the arena solution, to expand taxation beyond local capacity, then SHARE it with fellow Kansans. Woohoo … 8>D

  • I do agree with you about the difference between an NCAA men’s tournament bid and a women’s bid. The men’s bid would have drawn more people than the women’s. I think every reasonable person would agree with that. But again it is a start and hopefully this will lead to a men’s bid if it is successful. Also, thank you for answering my question. I’m glad to know you hope the arena does well.

    But then you make another arena attack. You claimed I missed the last sentence in your post and I did not. I know what you said that the Sedgwick County taxpayer is on the hook for the arena. My question was do you, Bob Weeks, want the arena to succeed. To compare what you initially posted about the Sedgwick County taxpayer being on the hook and to hear that you Bob Weeks support the arena is not a valid comparison at all Bob. I know many Sedgwick County taxpayers who still do not want the arena to succeed despite it already being built. Also, you always seem to forget that Sedgwick County voters made a free choice to vote for the arena in 2004. We can argue about the campaign tactics, but at the end of the day voters chose to support the arena. I disagreed with the vote in 2007 for the casinos and didn’t like some of the campaign tactics of the anti-casino groups, but at the end of the day the voters spoke and I respect their decision.

    Speaking of reading what you post I would like to go back to a September 24 post that you wrote. In it you claim that arena supporters said that if the arena was built then Wichita would land an NCAA men’s tournament bid. One of the arena backers you cited was Wichita Eagle sports columnist Bob Lutz. You then cited a quote from Mr. Lutz, but in the quote he never said if the arena was built we would land an NCAA men’s tournament, he said we could bid on one. That is a very distinct difference. You said Mr. Lutz owes an apology, but Bob you owe him one for taking his quote out of context.

  • It’s a good thing that Bob doesn’t require reading comprehension proficiency for blog readers. I’m afraid BJ wouldn’t be allowed to read here if that was the case.

    I looked up the September 24 post that BJ complains about. here it is: As it turns out, Lutz was quite the visionary in a June 18, 2004 Wichita Eagle column, in which he wrote: “Imagine our city bidding for an NCAA Tournament subregional or the Big 12 Tournament.” We don’t have to imagine anymore.

    What’s wrong with that? Lutz asked us to imagine, and we did.

    We ought to be grateful that we have people like Bob to remind us of just what a mess the arena is. Arena supporters like BJ won, but they can’t stand that some people opposed it and still do. We can’t all be a happy family sometimes. Deal with it. Go get a job there selling hot dogs for all I care.

  • To Anonymous,

    Thank you for not reading my post. I do agree with you about the reading comprehension you should learn how to read a post before you comment on it.

    First there is nothing wrong with what Bob Lutz said. He asked us to imagine, but the point in my post was he never said we would land an NCAA men’s tournament bid in that particular quote. Bob implied that Lutz owed Wichita an apology because we would land one if the arena were built. That was not in Lutz’s quote. If Lutz did say we would land one then Bob should post it, but he still took that particular quote out of context.

    Also, as more proof that you did not read my post you said that arena supporters such as myself still can’t get over the fact that people opposed it and still do. I clearly said in my post that I disagreed with the voters over the 2007 casino vote, but majority said they didn’t want the casinos and I said I respect that decision. I respect the fact that you still oppose the arena. I don’t agree, but I respect your choice to oppose it.

    I would suggest you get a job selling hot dogs at the arena because you seem to have a problem with reading comprehension and reading entire posts. My guess is you might sell a lot of hot dogs at the Bon Jovi concert. Let me know how it goes.

  • The arena sales tax was completely voluntary. If you didn’t want to support it, you could have easily done all your purchasing online or in another county and wouldn’t have spent a single cent of your own money on the arena.

    On the other hand, if the County Commission went forward with a no public input or vote decision to renovate Brit Brown arena (which they were going to do), we would have been stuck with a $200 million dollar bond payment for the next 20 years on property owners to repay in Sedgwick County. No Vote, No Voluntary Tax…. Just forced upon you by the decision of only THREE county commissioners. With half of the proceeds going to line the pockets of bond investors in NY State.

    What Bob Weeks fails to mention, that the DT arena was the MOST LIBERTARIAN issue that befailed the voters of Sedgwick County. Why he doesn’t see it that way, I don’t know. I assume that Bob Weeks doesn’t support a libertarian idea, like the Fair Tax, yet thinks that property owners should be stuck with projects to pay for without public discretion.

    For all of your DT Arena haters. I understand why you hate it. But the alternative was a lot worse for tax payers and it wouldn’t even come to a public vote. A slap to both tax payers and voters. What if they voted the DT arena down? What would you have advocated for then? To tear down Brit Brown for the sake of saving tax payers money? Because if you hate the DT Arena, then YOU MUST HATE BRIT BROWN.

    If you loved Brit Brown and wanted to stick property owners with a $200 million dollar bill and just hate the fact that an arena shouldn’t be downtown but out of town, then that’s fine. I can see your point.

    But to hate the DT arena because of tax payer money paid for it? Well hell, what do you think Brit Brown was doing and was going to do?

  • Mr. Williams is incorrect about the option concerning renovating Britt Brown arena. That could have been done with a price tag of $56 million. That is only a bit larger than the ~$50 million the county is spending for the WATC training center on Webb Rd. through bond financing right now. I will admit that it is arguable that the county’s 2.5 mill property tax hike in 2006 was intended to help pay for the vocational/aircraft related training center.

    One can argue about the property tax implication of this, but it is a fact that the $56 million renovation cost is only a bit more than a 1/4 of the $206 million downtown arena price tag.

    Mr. Lutz in the Eagle has been an advocate for higher taxes in his sports column on a regular basis. He was a big cheerleader for the arena tax. I remember hearing Mr. Weeks appear as a guest on Lutz and Bruce Haertl (sp?) radio program just days before that 2004 vote. Mr. Weeks had these sports journalists so flummoxed that Sports Commission’s Robert Hanson had to pop onto the program at the last minute to help the sports guys out. It was like watching Stephanopoulos’ ABC interview program on Sunday morning where George Will often appears as the sole conservative on the talking head panel. Will’s intellect leaves the liberals on the panel intellectually short-handed. Weeks did the same to the tax ‘n spend arena advocates locally.

    I must note, that I have not heard Mr. Weeks appear on this program since that one appearance. That figures. Perhaps Mr. Weeks will share information on that interesting point in a future post.

  • Funny, Joe, I would have thought that the most libertarian thing to do would have been to sell the entire Coliseum complex and then not build a downtown arena, or any other government-owned arena.

    And it’s not voluntary when you have to drive out of county to buy your groceries just to escape a tax.

    It’s a good thing that Bob doesn’t require a test of basic political comprehension to read and post on his blog. i’m afraid that Joe wouldn’t be allowed if that was the case. Put Joe and BJ together, and you’ve got quite a confused pair.

  • For those of you interested in the facts. Just prior to my election to Mayor of Wichita in the Spring of 2003 Sedgwick County had just voted for a plan at a cost of $50+ millions to renovate and improve the ADA requirements at the Kansas C. Later in 2007, Bob Hanson and George Fahnestock visited me at City hall to ask me to support a DT arena. I decided to explore the feasibility of the private sector building the arena. I met with several developers and they all wanted to build an arena facility with no more than seven thousand seats and they also wanted to own all the local professional teams that would played in the arena. Those two requirements rendered the private arena concept unworkable. I, then, turned to the City staff for us to build an arena between 10-15,000 seats with bonds and not increasing taxes. In addition, we made the County an offer to buy the Ks C for $1 and to tear it down while keeping the Pavilions (Basically, if the same taxpayers were going to spend $50+ million to renovate the Ks C. we could build a new arena for $70 million). We met several times with a group of City, County and Community leaders to discuss the proposal and after two weeks the County made us a counter offer that they wanted to build the arena and they gave us a different proposal. My requirements were that the downtown arena must have at least 12,000 seats; that no tax increase would be required; and that the Ks C. must be torn down when the DT Arena was completed. Things got complicated after Sedgwick County took the project over and promises made were not kept, but the voters did have a chance to speak on the issue and the Arena is now build. It is imperative that we come together to see that the Arena is successful.

  • Anonymous, buddy you must be working some late hours selling hot dogs. Get some sleep. I mean you never read whole posts. Don’t be a hypocrite and accuse others of reading comprehension when you seem to have that problem yourself.

    Joe good points, but most arena attackers want the arena to fail to stick it to arena supporters. They lost and they just can’t get over it. A vote was held and the citizens of not just Wichita, but Sedgwick County made a free choice to vote for the arena. Arena attackers could have shopped else where or moved if they were that upset about it. It was a free choice.

  • No! It wasn’t $50 million to renovate the KS C. That was only the initial basic ADA compliance renovation cost. They soon wanted to actually raise the roof and add more seating to Britt Brown (also close it down for two years while this was going to happen) at a cost of $80 million dollars with $20 million in soft cost at a total of $100 million.

    The DT arena first initial cost of construction was around $120 million but soon went to $143 million. I would expect that the $80 million dollar price tag for Britt Brown would have an addition $10 million dollar cost overrun easily, placing the price tag for it at $90 million in hard cost, not taking into account of soft cost.

    To finance it, they would have issued 20 year bonds at 5% interest (being conservative). $100 million in interest would be paid. Making the total price tag of $200 million dollars.

    Source: http://docs.google.com/gview?a=v&q=cache:vb6lCpEauzgJ:www.sedgwickcounty.org/communications/issues/arena_proposal.pdf+kansas+coliseum+renovation+plan+%2480+million&hl=en&gl=us&sig=AFQjCNEfsf3Eu3fXAjAi33vdAmMrEGA2cw

    Look on page 7, option E.

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