Bob Hanson’s first week as CEO of the Greater Wichita Area Sports Commission in October 1997 included the first of what would be a lot of meetings about getting a new arena in the city.
And along with those plans, he said, there was another looming question: Would a new arena enable Wichita to attract a return visit from the NCAA men’s basketball tournament?
“We always wanted to make sure it was big enough, that if we get a new arena, can we get an NCAA tournament?” Hanson said.
He always thought the answer was yes.
Premium content for only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
On Monday, the NCAA announced that Wichita would be among the eight cities selected to host the first and second rounds of the 2018 men’s basketball tournament. It will be the first time the tournament has been played in Wichita since 1994 at the Kansas Coliseum.
“Today, our community has been rewarded,” Hanson said at a news conference Monday at Intrust Bank Arena.
A.J. Boleski, the arena’s general manager, said at the news conference that NCAA staff told him on a tour of the building last year: “This building is absolutely ready to go. You just have to compete for it (the tournament).”
Boleski said in an interview after the news conference that the biggest requirement to meet was seating capacity. When construction on the $205.5 million, 15,004-seat arena began in November 2007, the seating requirement for an NCAA tournament was 12,500 seats, he said. At some point, the NCAA lowered the requirement to 10,000 seats.
Boleski said he knows another key item for tournament consideration was to provide adequate space for media organizations covering the tournament. He said the arena has designated a 4,500-square-foot event storage room in the north end of the arena to serve as the media room.
That space exceeds the NCAA’s minimum requirement of 3,200 square feet.
“That’s always an issue with an NCAA event,” he said.
“I think it’s any amenity you can offer beyond that (seating requirement) that’s going to help the cause.”
He said the arena’s 40 full-time and about 400 part-time employees should be more than sufficient as the venue first prepares for the three-day event, and then hosts the actual March Madness
“Within the arena itself, we’re geared up to host events with 15,000 people,” Boleski said.