Special Reports

Arena still on a good run

Sarah Palin drew 2,973 in May for her fundraising speech at Intrust Bank Arena, according to a report provided Wednesday to the Sedgwick County Commission. That's about half the size of the record crowd that showed up in February to hear the former vice presidential candidate address the Salina Area Chamber of Commerce banquet. Approximately 6,000 attended the event at the Bicentennial Center.

There were 3,087 tickets sold for Palin's speech in Wichita, totaling $156,025 in sales. She was brought in to help raise funds for Bethel Life School Association of Wichita.

The average ticket price for the event was $50.54. Two days before Palin's speech, Bethel Life School said its attendance goals had been met and put 2,000 tickets on sale for $15 each.

Attendance for Palin was on the bottom end of the six events held at the downtown venue in May, according to the monthly report that County Assistant Manager Ron Holt gave commissioners.

Total attendance for the month was 43,763 for an average of 5,470. Spectators came to events including Palin's speech, concerts and professional bull riding.

Rock band Nickelback pulled in the largest crowd of the month with 11,163.

The arena's profit for the year through May is $1.64 million. May boosted the net income by nearly $400,000.

"The first five months have been very good months," Holt said.

Building operating expenses through May were $2.11 million. The amount the arena spent with Sedgwick County and other Kansas companies for the year was $1.29 million.

While the picture is upbeat, summer months bring leaner times. June saw only four events. July has just two and August three.

Fall isn't looking much better with no events scheduled for September and one event each in October and November.

But Holt said arena staff has told him it is "aggressively pursuing" other events.

"I think there are still naysayers out there who want to read into all the numbers that there's something negative," Commissioner Tim Norton said after the meeting, "but I don't see it yet.

"I'm pretty optimistic that the first year is going to be more than I expected. I know we've been cautious because usually there's some downturn in the summer and not quite as many concerts, but we've got some big ones to come."

Rascal Flatts will perform July 22 and the Dave Matthews Band will be at the arena Aug. 14.

Commission Chairman Karl Peterjohn said after the meeting that he would always be "cautiously optimistic."

"You never know when some bad things are going to happen," he added. "But I'm certainly pleased with the numbers. And it's a good sign for our local economy that people... have the resources to spend on recreational activities."