Blizzard wasn't enough to cancel concert at arena

Mitzi Menzer Reese wavered all day Tuesday about whether to make the 120-mile drive to Wichita from Fairfax, Okla., a town an hour northwest of Tulsa.

Two months ago, she purchased 22 Kid Rock tickets for herself and a big group of friends, not knowing that the region would be buried in snow on show day.

But the concert wasn't canceled. After much hand-wringing, Reese, her husband and another couple decided to brave the highways and were shocked to find both U.S. 60 and I-35 clear. They made the trip in two hours — the same amount of time it takes them on a clear day.

"I would have been furious if I'd decided not to go," Reese said Wednesday.

Tuesday night's Kid Rock concert marked the first time Intrust Bank Arena had a concert scheduled during severe weather since opening last January.

The show went on as planned, and whether or not fans were happy about that seemed to be determined by how far they had to drive, how long they stood in frigid temperatures waiting for doors to open, and how receptive they were to a spontaneous change of onstage plans.

Arena officials announced early in the day Tuesday that the show would go on, despite blizzard conditions and below-freezing temperatures that prompted schools and businesses all over town to close.

It wasn't the arena's call, said General Manager A.J. Boleski. He and his staff consulted about conditions with Jam Productions, the promoter who rented the venue and who ultimately had the say on whether to cancel.

"There was never a release that said it was absolutely unsafe to travel," Boleski said. "No highways were ever closed."

Plus, he said, promoters might have been unable to reschedule a canceled show, and they wanted to get it done if at all possible.

Although the arena would try to defer to renters before canceling an event due to bad weather, it wouldn't hesitate to shut down if the danger was imminent, such as a tornado on the ground, Boleski said.

Tuesday's show drew 7,000 fans, he said. About 15 percent of tickets purchased weren't used, Boleski said.

Sedgwick County, which owns the arena, doesn't have the authority to cancel an event, said Assistant County Manager Ron Holt.

"It's their call," Holt said of SMG, which manages the arena for the county. "That's their business to run, and those kind of decisions would be theirs."

Emergency Management Director Randy Duncan said much the same. Although emergency officials statewide had urged folks to stay off the roads, "we naturally rely on folks exercising rational behavior under the circumstances," he said.

Still, the concert looked iffy even when showtime arrived.

Though Kid Rock made it on time, traveling by plane, his band was delayed by weather in Oklahoma while traveling from Texas by bus and had not arrived by the time opening act Jamey Johnson completed his set.

Mike Santiago, a Kid Rock fan at Tuesday's show, said the singer came onstage at the end of Johnson's set and explained the situation. He said his plan was to play with Johnson's band until his own arrived.

"He said, 'I've never canceled a show, and I'm not about to start here in Wichita,' " Santiago said.

The singer took the stage about 30 minutes late and went on to perform several cover songs with his fill-in band until his showed up, when he resumed his planned set. Kid Rock was onstage for almost two hours.

On the arena's Facebook page, several fans complained about having to wait outside in the cold for the doors to open.

The arena had announced that doors were scheduled to open at 5:30 p.m., but the promoter wasn't ready, Boleski said. Fans who were lined up on the south side of the arena were ushered inside to wait, but many on the north side waited in the cold. One fan complained about freezing in line at 6:10 p.m.

A few ticketholders requested refunds Wednesday, Boleski said, but because the show went on in its entirety, none will be given.

The show itself was amazing, Reese said. Though she was a little disappointed not to hear every song she was expecting because of the band's delay, she thinks she saw a unique, ad-libbed show no one else on the tour will see.

She's pretty sure that the four people in her car were the only ones out of the 22 she purchased tickets for who made the trip. She even had friends in Derby turn down her extra tickets just before the show.

"It was worth it," Menzer Reese said. "And now I can say, 'Ha, ha' to all my friends who wouldn't ride with us."