July 26, 2011

Get Motivated seminar draws praise, criticism

Intrust Bank Arena's first run Tuesday as a site for a major daytime event during the week came with some hitches and bumps.

Intrust Bank Arena's first run Tuesday as a site for a major daytime event during the week came with some hitches and bumps.

For some who held a ticket to the Get Motivated business seminar and couldn't get inside the arena to hear such speakers as Bill Cosby and Colin Powell in person, the motivation was high to criticize the experience.

"We knew this was going to be challenging," arena manager A.J. Boleski said after spending the morning outside directing foot traffic.

But while there was a parking shortage and some businesses complained that eventgoers took their parking spaces, the day came and went without any monumental flops.

Traffic delays were minimal, despite the all-day event starting and letting out during the day's rush hours. For those who got a seat at Intrust, the reviews were generally good.

The arena topped out at 13,500, and another 2,000 people watched the event on screens at Century II's Convention Hall. That was on top of about 1,500 people who attended the Kansas Star Casino job fair, also at Century II, between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m.

Parking was certainly an issue.

About 2,500 parking spaces that are either owned or leased by the city were available in downtown and Old Town. That's about half the number available for Intrust's nighttime events.

"It was the ultimate test," said John Philbrick, the city's property management director who oversees parking for Intrust. "You have the arena operating at full capacity in the middle of the week and offices and businesses at full capacity."

He said he'd only heard a few complaints. Cindy Miles had one.

She said she spent 30 to 45 minutes looking for an arena parking spot and finally found a five-hour meter nearby. But then she couldn't get in, so she went to Century II.

Parking lots there were full, but she found a one-hour meter about 9:15 a.m. She spent about 10 minutes inside before leaving to attend a funeral.

"I'd planned to come back in the afternoon," she said, "but I decided it wasn't worth it. You could say I wasn't motivated to return."

Traffic delays were minimal, said police Capt. Troy Livingston. He said it took about an hour to get the bulk of the traffic on its way after the event began to wrap up around 5 p.m., shortly before speaker Bill Self delivered his message.

"It went very smoothly considering the size of the event on top of regular downtown traffic," he said. "It's not an instantaneous process. You can't vanish 15,000 people."

Some businesses in Old Town complained that public parking spaces were taken, keeping customers away.

But Jeff Fluhr, president of Wichita Downtown Development Corp., said it was good that there was so much traffic in the area, including a lunch crowd during a seminar's break.

"Literally thousands of people were going into our restaurants," he said. "Our hope is that those who maybe experienced some inconveniences, that in looking at the larger perspective they'll see where they may actually end up having people come back because now they know that the businesses are there."

The hottest complaint by far came from those who had tickets but couldn't get inside the arena Tuesday morning, prompting accusations that the Tampa, Fla.-based Get Motivated oversold the event.

Brian Forte, senior vice president for Get Motivated, said that wasn't true.

"Much like the airline industry, sometimes people will book a seat and then not show up," he said. "We take all of that into account.

"We've been doing this for 30 years. We have a pretty good idea" how to run an event.

Unlike many arena events, Get Motivated was responsible for selling the tickets, said Boleski, the arena manager.

There was no reserve seating. Doors opened at 6:45 a.m. for the event that started at 8.

About an hour after it started, fire officials prohibited any more people from entering the arena. They were sent to Century II, which was originally set up as a satellite spot but also acted as an overflow site.

Forte said the problem was created by so many people showing up at once about the time the event started.

"That's a lot of people," he said.

Forte said about 50 to 100 people had to wait to get in, but most of those eventually did get a seat at Intrust or watched from the Century II. Anyone who asked for a refund would receive one, he said.

Some attendees who did get inside left after finding people standing in the aisles.

"It wasn't safe," said Diana Waggoner of Wichita, who came with her mother but left by midmorning. "We're leaving because this is a scary environment."

Others who got a seat at Intrust weren't disappointed.

After the morning session ended, Jana Hinz of Newton said, "So far so good. I was pleasantly surprised at the spiritual content. I wasn't expecting that. A lot of the speakers spoke about faith being a big part of their life and their success."

Between featured speakers, products were sold from the stage.

"I expected there to be some sort of sales pitch and there was," Hinz said.

Tickets purchased in advance were as low as $1.95 each — for seating high in the arena — and ranged to $49. The cost at the door was $225 per ticket.

Antonio Chavez of Wichita was among those who paid $225. He and his sister arrived about 6:30 a.m. and both paid the walk-up price.

"I wanted to make sure I was on top of my game and make sure I got the best of what was offered," he said. "I'm very motivated."

Some who had Intrust tickets were upset they were being sent to Century II.

Chris Davison of Wichita had a ticket to see the event at Intrust and declined to go to Century II. He waited all morning to get inside, then finally gave up and left.

"Some of us came here for a live event," he said. "I'm disappointed."

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