Intrust Bank Arena seating can't please everyone

12/12/2010 12:00 AM

12/12/2010 1:40 AM

Wichita State basketball fans take their season tickets seriously, as well they should.

They become attached to the location. They become attached to their winter neighbors. The view and the atmosphere is what they think of when they write a check each summer to renew.

Moving those fans to Intrust Bank Arena for one game wasn't going to happen without making some fans unhappy. Athletic director Eric Sexton isn't surprised to hear complaints about tickets for the Dec. 21 game against Tulsa.

"We knew that there would be issues," he said. "This is the first time we've been down there. Are we dead certain we got it exactly, perfectly right? In no uncertain terms, we know that there will be issues."

The process did produce at least a few disgruntled fans. Some say they ended up with bad seats and don't understand how or why. Some believe their years of loyalty to WSU weren't rewarded. Some don't care if WSU plays another game at Intrust Bank Arena.

Of course, some of those opinions may change after the game is played. Sexton wants to wait before he judges the downtown experience.

The issues appear to be limited to a small number of season-ticket holders. Sexton said the athletic department received complaints or questions from around 30 people — out of around 2,500 season-ticket accounts. Tickets to the game were mailed out last week.

"We are dealing with the 30 or so individuals who have contacted us on as much of an individual basis as we can," Sexton said. "We used a transparent and even-handed process, utilizing our priority points system, to allocate the seating assignments for this one event. We will continue to evaluate how that plays out."

While the number of unhappy fans may not fill much more than a few rows, Sexton isn't dismissing their complaints.

"We take them all seriously," he said. "Some we'll be able to address."

The misconception that seats in Koch Arena should roughly translate to seats in Intrust Bank Arena seems to be part of the problem. WSU did not attempt to get people as close as possible to their Koch Arena locations. Koch Arena seats 10,506 fans in a round arena. Intrust Bank Arena seats 15,004 fans in a rectangle with rounded corners.

Sexton said four sections in the lower level were off limits to season-ticket holders. Three went for the student section behind one basket. One section is reserved for Intrust Bank Arena club-seat owners.

WSU used that priority points system, which totals season-ticket history and donor levels, to assign seats. It is the same system WSU uses to hand out seats for the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament in St. Louis' Scottrade Center. Sexton said Intrust Bank Arena uses a computer program to determine "best seats available."

The subjective nature of the process also complicates moving fans. One person's favorite view may be from the baseline. Another may prefer center court. One person called to complain that his seats were too close to the court. Sexton is hopeful that some people will find their seats better than they anticipate after looking at a seating chart.

Parking is also a passionate issue. Sexton said any season-ticket holder with a parking pass for Koch Arena will be able to park for free in a downtown lot. Some pass-holders are encouraged to park at Lawrence-Dumont Stadium and use a free shuttle.

The NCAA required WSU to play a basketball game at Intrust Bank Arena to prepare for the women's NCAA Tournament in March. Sexton said WSU will use this experience to help determine its future downtown.

"We'll evaluate the things we need to do to improve, if we have more events downtown at Intrust Bank Arena," he said.

Where in the world is Gregg Marshall — One of the prices — or rewards — of success in Missouri Valley Conference men's basketball is tough opponents.

Last season, WSU traveled to Utah State to play a late-night game and lost a BracketBusters game. Earlier this month, the MVC-Mountain West Conference Challenge Series sent the Shockers to then-No. 17 San Diego State for another loss.

Marshall is ready for a break in WSU's travel schedule.

"The next time I'm told somewhere to go by the league it may be Beijing to take on the Chinese Army, at 3 a.m.," he said.

That suffering pays off next season, when WSU's home schedule should improve. Utah State will return the game to Koch Arena. The MVC-MWC Challenge matchups will be announced within the next month, and the Shockers should draw a good opponent.

Passing grade — Golf's Nationwide Tour is billed as the second-best tour in the world. Former WSU golfer Dustin Garza can't find wait to find out how he matches up.

On Monday, he finished play in PGA Tour Qualifying School and finished tied for 50th to earn fully exempt status on the Nationwide Tour.

"That's a huge step," Garza said.

He started in Pre-Qualifying in September in Dallas, finishing in a tie for second. In late October, he won the First Stage tournament in Kingwood, Texas with an 11-under-par 277. He tied for ninth in the Second Stage tournament in Humble, Texas.

That sent him to Winter Garden, Fla., and the Orange County National Golf Center. He finished in a tie for 50th after six rounds with a 5-under-par 424. The top 25 players (and ties) out of the 166-player field received PGA Tour cards. Garza isn't disappointed with his finish.

"It's very hard to make the third stage," he said. "You would love to get your (PGA)Tour card. But the next big thing is to get fully exempt. You play for a lot of money (on the Nationwide Tour). Your schedule is set."

The Nationwide Tour starts in Hawaii next month. Garza plans on playing in the Wichita Open in June at Crestview Country Club.

Mitch Caster remembered — Former baseball player Mitch Caster will posthumously receive his Associate of Arts degree today during graduation ceremonies at Koch Arena.

Caster, who played outfield and pitched the past three seasons, died in August in a car accident. He attended Goddard High.

Melanie and Melissa Caster, his sisters, and former WSU softball player Lindsie Mitts will accept the degree on his behalf.

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