Basketball has been good to Intrust Bank Arena, which general manager A.J. Boleski hopes will lead to hosting the men’s NCAA Tournament someday.
The Dec. 14 Shocker game against Tennessee brought in the highest attendance of any single event at the arena last year with 14,356 people in the stands.
An Oklahoma City Thunder exhibition game against the Chicago Bulls sold the most tickets at 14,214, compared with 12,019 tickets for the Wichita State University game. Attendance at the Oct. 23 Thunder game came in at 13,763.
Basketball games “are very well-attended and very well-supported. We expect that to continue,” Boleski said Wednesday. “We’re always looking to grow with college and NBA basketball. Hosting a NCAA Tournament is still our ultimate goal.”
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The downtown venue netted $705,678 last year, its second-best year since opening in 2010, according to unaudited numbers shared with Sedgwick County commissioners Wednesday. More than $514,000 of that came in the last quarter, which featured top-selling events such as Wichita State, Kansas State and Oklahoma City Thunder games and concerts by the Eagles and Blake Shelton.
Under its agreement with SMG, the company that manages the arena for the county, the county will get $255,678 of the net income. SMG keeps the first $450,000 of any profit. It also absorbs any losses – a rare agreement hashed out between the county and the company.
“We’re very pleased with this report,” Sedgwick County Assistant Manager Ron Holt told commissioners.
Boleski credited his staff's "commitment and passion for our industry along with the very strong support of Wichita and our surrounding communities."
Commission Chairman Dave Unruh said the arena not only provides entertainment but also spent close to $2.9 million last year with Sedgwick County and Kansas businesses and had a net payroll of about $2.6 million.
Although it still struggles to get some of the music world’s major touring acts to stop in Wichita, the arena had six sold-out events last year, Boleski said. They were the Thunder game, the Winter Jam tour of Christian music and concerts by Taylor Swift, Luke Bryan, Blake Shelton and the Eagles.
Holt noted that the arena was ranked No. 1 in the Midwest for arenas seating 10,001 to 15,000 people by Venues Today magazine. Still, the arena continues to receive criticism for not offering a more diverse musical schedule, with complaints that the arena seems stuck on the country dial.
Lady Antebellum, a pop country act, arrives Friday. An April 4 performance by the retiring George Strait is sold out. Tickets are on sale for James Taylor on June 20 and Motley Crue on July 12.