Politics & Government

Intrust Bank Arena to get $3 million in improvements

North entrance of Intrust Bank Arena. (August 22, 2016)
North entrance of Intrust Bank Arena. (August 22, 2016) The Wichita Eagle

Intrust Bank Arena is getting a $2 million upgrade to the entrance closest to Old Town before hosting March Madness in 2018.

Sedgwick County approved nearly $3 million in upgrades including the entrance improvement this week. The improvements were requested by SMG, which is contracted to manage the downtown arena. The county is responsible for approving and paying for those projects.

Chief financial officer Chris Chronis, who has overseen the contract since assistant county manager Ron Holt retired earlier this year, signed off on the upgrades Thursday. Commissioners don’t have to approve the improvements because of the agreement with SMG.

The most significant project is an upgrade of the northern entrance, or “Entrance C”, with more doorways and more lobby space. It will also add stairways and a plaza outside the arena entrance. That project will cost $1,986,795.

$1,986,795 Entrance remodel cost

$1,012,625 Other upgrades

$2,999,420 Total estimated cost

Arena general manager A.J. Boleski presented the proposed upgrades to commissioners in August, saying they were necessary to accommodate the high number of visitors that use the northern entrance.

“People are visiting a lot of the establishments and restaurants in Old Town prior to these events,” he said Friday. “It’s an area that we’ve wanted to do some work on for a while.”

The area has become a “bottleneck” for guests at the doors, according to the arena’s 2017 capital improvement list.

Boleski said he wanted to improve guests’ experience at the arena and better handle the foot traffic for larger events, such as the first and second rounds of the 2018 NCAA men’s basketball tournament.

We want to make sure we put our best foot forward to that event.

A.J. Boleski, Intrust Bank Arena general manager

“We want to make sure we put our best foot forward to that event,” Boleski said. “But we need this for every event.”

County public information officer Kate Flavin said construction on the north entrance would start in 2017 and be completed before the NCAA Tournament in March 2018.

Here’s more than $1 million in arena improvement projects also approved by Chronis.

▪ Wireless system replacement: $385,375

▪ Replacing hallway curtains: $75,000

▪ Security cameras: $35,000

▪ Event security radios: $52,250

▪ Concourse and suite furnishings like more seating or drink rails: $75,000

▪ Computer upgrade: $90,000

▪ Concession rebranding at Section 212 stand: $30,000

▪ Replacing concession equipment: $50,000

▪ Replacing janitorial equipment: $25,000

▪ Box office equipment: $25,000

▪ Security gate controller upgrade: $10,000

▪ Replacing video broadcast equipment: $100,000

▪ Upgrading energy management systems: $35,000

▪ Outdoor party deck furnishings: $25,000

Boleski said arena staff want to improve wifi access for guests.

“The arena’s current wireless network…suffers from a variety of problems including poor coverage, slow connection speeds and an inability to handle many connections at once,” according to the capital improvement list.

Boleski said some technology in the arena, like staff computers or the security gate, is nearing the end of its usable life.

The improvements are funded by the arena’s operating and maintenance reserve, Flavin said. That reserve is the leftover balance from the arena sales tax approved by voters.

The reserve had $12.4 million in it on June 30, according to the last quarterly update on Intrust Bank Arena.

Daniel Salazar: 316-269-6791, @imdanielsalazar