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Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Wrestling tournaments will be at Hartman Arena

BY JOANNA CHADWICK
The Wichita Eagle

The Class 6A and 5A wrestling tournaments will remain in the Wichita area, leaving Intrust Bank Arena after one year and move to Hartman Arena in Park City.

Hartman Arena, a year-old facility, will host its first state high school championship Feb. 25-26.

The state tournaments were held at Intrust Bank Arena in February, but the Kansas State High School Activities Association lost nearly $45,000. The tournaments made nearly $24,000 when they were at the Kansas Coliseum in 2009.

"The bottom line was to get more manageable costs for operational expenses," Gary Musselman, executive director of the KSHSAA, said Monday.

The cost to host the tournaments at Hartman Arena is "more comparable to the Kansas Coliseum," Musselman said.

The KSHSAA holds an option to renew with Hartman Arena in 2012 and 2013 as well.

"Our priority was to keep the event at Intrust Bank Arena," said Scott Neal, assistant general manager of Intrust Bank Arena."... We worked very hard to see what we could do with the Kansas State High School Activities Association to make sure that it did come back to Intrust Bank Arena."

Neal added that "we'd be open to talk to (the KSHSAA) in the future."

At Hartman Arena, fans will pay $1 more for tickets ($12 adults, $8 students for all-day tickets), while parking is free. Hartman Arena usually charges $5 for parking.

"That's part of my effort to keep the tournament local," said Wink Hartman, the arena's owner. "We didn't want that to become an issue."

The rental fee is $9,500 at Hartman Arena; the same fee at Intrust Bank Arena was $11,000. The big difference in cost should be most evident in arena staffing.

With Hartman Arena, the KSHSAA is "allowed more input and some control (on) how much staffing we need," Musselman said.

And because Hartman Arena will seat about 4,500 — Intrust Bank Arena capacity for the tournament was around 11,000 — the overhead costs will likely be less.

The state tournaments usually draw about 6,000 fans over two days, which would mean a more intimate crowd at Hartman Arena. At the much larger Coliseum and Intrust Bank Arena, fans were spread out.

A smaller atmosphere appeals to Musselman and area coaches.

"Hartman is a top-notch venue, and I think it's probably a good fit for crowd numbers," Heights High wrestling coach Mike Church said. "It will make for an electric atmosphere."

Goddard coach Brett Means agreed.

"I think it's a good choice. Just walking inside it, it was awesome," Means said.

The Class 6A and 5A tournaments were at the Kansas Coliseum from 1985 to 2005. In 2006, 6A was at Koch Arena and 5A was at Hutchinson High. They returned to the Coliseum in 2007 and 2008. The Coliseum closed to such events when Intrust Bank Arena opened in January.

Keeping the tournament in Wichita was important to Wink Hartman and Musselman.

"It's a private arena and one of my ambitions was to keep more local events at home," Hartman said."... There's a lot more to an arena than having rock-and-roll concerts."

For Musselman, the appeal is Wichita's central location in the state as well as a wide base of volunteers already in place.

"The cadre of volunteers is so critical in so many of our events," Musselman said."... (City League athletic director) Bill Faflick and his building-level athletic directors in the City League schools are so key that for us to stay in that Wichita vicinity allows them to stay in that role, and do so many things that they do behind the scenes."

The Class 4A tournament will continue at the Salina Bicentennial Center and the 3-2-1A tournament at Hays' Gross Memorial Coliseum.

Reach Joanna Chadwick at 316-268-6270 or jchadwick@wichitaeagle.com.

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