Hartman Arena has a new general manager

WICHITA – James Snodgrass is out as the third general manager of the 5-year-old Hartman Arena, but he's reluctant to discuss it.

"They still haven't given me a reason why I was let go."

Snodgrass, who was hired in spring 2011, won't say more.

"I would like to take the high road on this one."

Arena owner Wink Hartman Sr. says he didn't make the decision alone.

"It was a group decision with VenuWorks, his employer, having the final decision," Hartman says.

"It's been our view all along that we were going to take a look and evaluate and ... see if a change was necessary," says John Siehl, regional vice president for VenuWorks.

He says the company decided "to bring in a person that we had picked so that we could improve the program and the operation."

Aran Rush, who most recently was events facilities department executive director for the Tyson Events Center in Sioux City, Iowa, is the new general manager for Hartman Arena. Siehl says Rush is new to VenuWorks.

Hartman says if there are leadership issues at the arena, "I take full responsibility."

He says he doesn't think there have been problems with leadership, but he says the arena isn't where it should be financially.

"The production of events at the arena can significantly increase, and hopefully it will," Hartman says.

He says with SMG taking over management at the Orpheum Theatre and with the Kansas Star Casino now doing concerts, it's getting tougher to be in business.

The casino is a particular source of concern to Hartman.

"Kansas Star Casino is funded by the Kansas lottery system. Hartman Arena was funded with my personal after-tax dollars, which is significantly different."

He says the fact that the casino, though not its concert venue, allows smoking while other places can't have it is another issue.

"As they say, the government shouldn't be picking winners and losers," Hartman says.

He says he doesn't have regrets about opening the arena.

"I never back up from any business I start," Hartman says. "I continue and will continue to strive to make Hartman Arena successful in the market."