Just as the Shockers are preparing to face the Louisville Cardinals in the Final Four on Saturday, Wichita-area sports bars are gearing up for what promises to be their busiest night in decades.
So much so that Larry Bud’s Sports Bar and Grill, 2120 N. Woodlawn, will more than double its available seating for the occasion. Manager and co-owner Will Harmon is setting up an outdoor party in the parking lot, complete with an 80-inch TV, two 70-inch TVs and some “crazy loudspeakers,” in addition to what is already inside.
“It’s going to be epic,” Harmon said Thursday. “I’ve thrown a lot of parties in my day but this is going to be the one.
“We’re ready to rock.”
Harmon, who graduated from WSU in 2000, said the bar has always been an ardent supporter of Shocker athletics. He catered a meal for the basketball team at Koch Arena on Selection Sunday, then watched the show with them.
“I’ve been going to the basketball games since I was 5 years old,” Harmon said. “They’re very close to my heart. We love the Shockers.”
Larry Bud’s is just one of many local sports bars in the Wichita area getting ready for what they anticipate will be overflow crowds on Saturday.
Fox & Hound Pub & Grille, 1421 N. Waterfront, has long been the official sports bar of WSU’s Alumni Association, and as such, it will be hosting a watch party for the game, which tips off at 5:05 p.m. Saturday.
But, judging from last week’s turnout, you’re going to have to get there a few hours before that to get a seat, general manager Sean McLachlan said.
“We expect to be at full building by 2:30 at the latest,” McLachlan said. “We are at standing room only every time the Shockers play. Last Saturday, the game started at 6, and the first fan showed up at 11:30 a.m.”
McLachlan said Fox & Hound is making sure to have “more than enough food, staff and seating” available for the game, as he anticipates around 400 people on Saturday.
Meanwhile in Old Town, Heroes Sports Bar, 117 N. Mosley, is also preparing for the rush of Shocker fans.
The bar, one of the few in town that took reservations, stopped doing so Thursday afternoon. General manager Eric Davisson said he expects Heroes to be at its capacity of about 300 a few hours before the game starts.
“We’ll be ready to rock and roll,” Davisson said. “We’ve been a very consistent supporter of Wichita State athletics, and Shocker faithful are always welcome at Heroes.”
The bar is crafting a special “Shocker menu” with unique food and drinks to supplement its standard menu, Davisson said.
But as far as screen size goes, Fat Tony’s Grill & Sports Bar, 417 E. Douglas, takes the prize. Standing about 26 feet tall, the screen is the “biggest TV in Kansas,” owner Bryan Shapiro maintains.
“We pack the house for WSU,” Shapiro said. “Even our logo is black and yellow.”
The bar, in addition to appealing to sports fans, also caters to families with children, Shapiro said.
“They love the atmosphere, but don’t want to take their kids to a bar,” Shapiro said. “It’s a real good-spirited crowd. They get so loud you can hear them down the street.”
For a small, cozy, game-watching experience, nothing can beat Wichita Brewing Co., 8815 W. 13th St., general manager Kevin Curtis said.
“It’s a nice, little neighborhood setting,” Curtis said. “Plus we’ve got the best beer in town.”
On Saturday, the bar is selling pints of its homebrewed wheat beer for $2 apiece. But Curtis said the bar, which seats about 80, typically sees fewer sales on game days than on ordinary nights.
“Typically we’re full anyway on Saturday nights, but people will be getting up and leaving,” Curtis said. “Since the Shocker game is on, people are sitting here for four hours and they won’t leave.
“It’ll actually probably slow down our dollar sales a bit, but the NCAA Tournament brings a lot of people in, so it’s good from that aspect.”
With all the buzz surrounding the Final Four matchup, Harmon of Larry Bud’s said he can only imagine what it will be like should the Shockers play for the national championship on Monday, a feat he thinks is quite possible.
“Who knows? There may be people camping out at the east-side Larry Bud’s the night before,” Harmon said. “That’d be pretty funny.”