Special Reports

Wichita's Intrust Bank Arena turns profit in first two months

Brad Paisley opens up the Intrust Bank Arena.
Brad Paisley opens up the Intrust Bank Arena. The Wichita Eagle

Bolstered by two country music concerts that brought in $1.75 million in ticket sales, Intrust Bank Arena turned a profit in its first two months, a Sedgwick County official said Wednesday.

The arena's net income for January and February came in at $321,709 after salaries and other expenses such as operations, utilities and maintenance, assistant county manager Ron Holt told commissioners. Those numbers do not include depreciation.

Pollstar recently rated the arena 45th worldwide for ticket sales in the first quarter of the year. Kansas City's Sprint Center was 11th; Denver's Pepsi Center was 49th. Arenas in Tulsa and Oklahoma City were not among the top 50.

Holt was upbeat during his presentation, but cautioned commissioners that the number of events may slow in the summer as the entertainment industry puts on fewer shows.

The arena's general manager, Chris Presson of SMG, also spoke to commissioners. The county hired SMG to manage the arena.

"We just want to thank you for the opportunity you've given SMG," Presson said. "We're, as Ron said, happy with the numbers. But we're more pleased at this point that the county is happy with the numbers."

Presson also thanked arena staff for listening to eventgoers' concerns and making improvements along the way.

The arena sold 35,583 tickets to five events in January, including a concert by Brad Paisley. Attendance at those events totaled 34,362, and the average attendance was 6,872, Holt said.

Gross ticket sales in January were $816,125 for an average $22.94 per ticket.

In February, the arena sold 51,906 tickets to 14 events, including a George Strait concert, several Wichita Thunder hockey games, shows by the Lipizzaner Stallions and the state high school wrestling tournament. Gross ticket sales totaled almost $1.7 million for an average $32.75 per ticket. Attendance at all events totaled 59,252, and the average attendance was 4,232.

Holt explained that attendance was higher in February than the number of tickets sold because of complimentary tickets.

Arena salaries and benefits totaled nearly $300,000 in January and a little more than $265,000 in February.

Revenue from parking fees in January totaled $15,161, and net income was $11,901. City-owned lots were 32 percent full during events in January, Holt aid.

In February, revenue from parking totaled $21,069, and net income was $13,424. Occupancy was 21 percent in February.

Holt noted that the Q-Line trolleys have been popular among eventgoers. Ridership in January was 8,031 — more than the 7,500 for all of last year — and ridership in February was 5,325. That compares with 1,082 in October, 569 in November and 218 in December before the arena opened.

Ridership the first two months of this year is up 615 percent compared with the first three months of 2009, Holt said.

Commissioners for the most part seemed pleased with the numbers.

"I'm glad we're taking in more money than we're spending, and I do (say) that carefully," commissioner Karl Peterjohn said after the meeting.

"Commissioner (Kelly) Parks raised the question I was going to ask in terms of if the numbers included depreciation, and they do not. So we're basically looking at a cash-in, cash-out sort of basis as opposed to a traditional business basis. But obviously I'm glad the numbers show more cash coming in than cash going out....

"The key thing is we don't want Intrust Bank Arena to be a burden for the taxpayers beyond what it cost to build it."

Arena manager SMG is responsible for any operating losses during its contract. SMG would get the first $450,000 of annual profit after recovering money for any prior losses. The county would receive the next $450,000 in profit after being reimbursed for any capital expenses exceeding $250,000.

After that, the county would receive 60 percent and SMG would receive 40 percent of any remaining profit.

Voters approved a 30-month, 1 percent sales tax in 2004 to build the arena.

Parks, who supported keeping Britt Brown Arena open at the Kansas Coliseum complex, said, "We pretty well knew the first year was going to be real good for us on that because it is new."

But, he said, he estimated that 16 of the 19 events in January and February could have been held at Britt Brown Arena, which closed after the arena opened.

"That's the thing that really stuck out to me," he said. "They keep saying that Britt Brown lost so much money, and they figured depreciation in that every time. They're not figuring depreciation. We've got to tear that thing down in 35 years, you know."

Related stories from Wichita Eagle