$350,000 signs have been dark for months downtown

Remember those electronic signs downtown that were supposed to flash messages about parking at Intrust Bank Arena?

Well, message not received.

The four signs that cost Sedgwick County about $350,000 haven't worked for months.

Instead of flashing messages about parking for concerts and other arena events, the high-tech signs have low-tech pieces of paper taped to them advertising parking fees.

"$5" says the one just east of the arena on Waterman.

The signs have been blank since August. An interface issue between a computer that programs messages on the signs and the signs themselves is to blame.

City and county officials say they are working to get the signs running again. Some commissioners, who approved paying for the signs, said they weren't aware the signs were broken.

"You're the first (to tell) this commissioner," Commissioner Karl Peterjohn said Friday.

Assistant County Manager Ron Holt said the city started working Sept. 1 with a new parking lot management company and "got focused on getting the new company in place, and this thing didn't get addressed. It would be our plan to have those fixed."

The city manages parking for the arena, paid for by a 30-month, 1 percent sales tax approved by voters. The money for the signs came out of that tax. The four signs cost $342,672.

The signs were intended to advertise upcoming arena events and let eventgoers know if Lots A, B, C and D were full or how much it would cost to park there.

The signs also could be used to let drivers know about any accidents affecting traffic in the area, Holt said.

Although city and county officials had talked about signs that report how many spaces are left — like those used at malls and shopping centers in large cities — they didn't buy those, said John Philbrick, real estate administrator for the city.

"You can program them to say the Thunder Nationals are coming or parking is $5," Philbrick said.

"We are in the process of getting those debugged and getting them back online. There were some issues, and I don't know all the details because I was not involved when that was happening. They had problems with them jamming, shutting down at inopportune times. So a determination was made to shut them down altogether."

Quick fixes didn't work, he said.

"So when it gets a little warmer, we're going to get the IT folks, the vendor, engineering folks, myself and my parking manager to go to each sign, troubleshoot them and bring them back," he said.

The signs worked correctly the first few months. The arena opened in January 2010.

The signs are at parking lot A at the northeast corner of Williams and Emporia, parking lot B on the north side of English between Broadway and Topeka, parking lot C just south of Lewis on Emporia, and parking lot D on the south side of Waterman just east of the railroad tracks.

"One of the things on my to-do list is to get those up to speed," Philbrick said.