Special Reports

Intrust Bank Arena General Manager Chris Presson quits

Chris Presson, general manager of the Intrust Bank Arena, announced Wednesday he is resigning from that position.
Chris Presson, general manager of the Intrust Bank Arena, announced Wednesday he is resigning from that position. Correspondent

Chris Presson will resign as general manager of Intrust Bank Arena at the end of next week because of family reasons, county officials and the arena's management company announced Wednesday.

Presson said he decided to quit last weekend after thinking about the priorities in his life and how he spends his time.

"I need to renew my energy and think about where I've been and where I'm going," he said Wednesday.

Presson, 44, is married and has three girls under the age of 10. He said he loves his job, but that it is very demanding.

"Opening a new arena is a very tough job and it takes a lot of time, energy and effort," he said. "And it takes a toll on anyone."

The abrupt departure comes almost two years after he was named general manager.

SMG, a private company which runs the arena under a contract with Sedgwick County, will search for a replacement from within the company, said Gary Desjardins, SMG general manager of the Ford Center in Oklahoma City, and SMG regional oversight manager.

Desjardins declined to discuss details about the resignation, saying it is "kind of private."

"There's not much more to read into it," he said.

County Commissioner Gwen Welshimer said she and other commissioners were "dumbfounded" when County Manager William Buchanan informed them about Presson's resignation Wednesday. She said there was no indication he would be leaving.

"He's done a good job so far," she said. "He's been responsive to our questions and so on."

Welshimer said that some have pressed to get more detailed information on the arena's financial books.

"So there are things that haven't been made clear to us," she said. "But they did come and give us a report on the totals so far and those looked pretty good."

Welshimer said that she hopes SMG will find a replacement soon, preferably someone local.

"I doubt seriously that the arena will suffer from the transition," she said. "I think it will work itself out very well."

County Commissioner Dave Unruh said that Presson is a "knowledgeable and energetic guy" who quickly solved any problems that arose.

"I thought he's done a great job for us, and I'm sorry to see him leave," he said.

Presson reported to commissioners two weeks ago that the arena had a net income of $321,709, not including depreciation, in January and February. It opened Jan. 9.

Pollstar recently rated the arena 45th worldwide and 22nd in the nation for ticket sales in the first quarter of the year. Kansas City's Sprint Center was 11th worldwide.

Assistant County Manager Ron Holt said Presson and Desjardins told him about the resignation in person Wednesday morning.

Holt said it caught him by surprise. He said the two cited only "family reasons."

"It's their personnel, their issue, and I respected it," Holt said.

He said he is confident SMG will provide solid interim management and find an excellent replacement.

Presson said a nine-day notice is enough because the arena has great employees and SMG — which manages arenas around the world — has a deep pool of talent to draw from.

"This is one of those times that I think I have to make it more about me than about other things," he said.

He said he isn't sure what he'll do next.

"I'm open to anything," he said, noting that he wants to be involved in improving the community.

Presson is a self-described "sports junkie" and is the former general manager of the Wichita Thunder hockey team. He earned a bachelor's degree in journalism and broadcasting at Oklahoma State University in 1992.

He has worked as general manager for several professional hockey teams, including the Topeka Scarecrows, the New Haven (Conn.) Knights and the Oklahoma City Blazers.

Related stories from Wichita Eagle