Make case for arena

Intrust Bank Arena’s strong performance during its inaugural year of 2010 couldn’t last. And it didn’t. Lucky for Sedgwick County taxpayers, though, the county’s uncommon management contract with SMG means the firm absorbs the revenue shortfall for the second quarter of 2011. And lucky for the area’s quality of life, the concert business finally is showing some vitality nationally.

The arena’s net building income was $61,342 in the red for the second quarter of 2011, after being $1.1 million in the black for the second quarter of 2010. The drop wasn’t a big surprise, given how many fewer big-name bookings and even events the arena has had this year compared with the first six months of 2010 — when the new venue came in at 17th in the nation and 39th in the world for the period in Pollstar magazine’s rankings.

This year, Pollstar’s midyear rankings put Intrust Bank Arena at 39th in the United States and 78th in the world — still an impressive performance for a market the size of Wichita’s. The schedule holds promise through the end of year. And as A.J. Boleski, the arena’s general manager, told The Eagle editorial board, a number of the acts that visited the arena in its inaugural year should be ready to consider the market again in 2012. “We have started to see the number of concerts increasing for next year,” he said.

High on the list of top acts that have toured in 2011 but bypassed Wichita: U2, Lady Gaga, Celine Dion, Lil Wayne, Usher, Rod Stewart/Stevie Nicks, New Kids on the Block/Backstreet Boys, Prince, Phish and “American Idols Live.”

The absence of African-American and hard rock acts remains a particular frustration. In those and all cases, as Boleski said, “we must find promoters to take the risk.”

Intrust Bank Arena is a world-class venue in a community that has demonstrated its willingness to come downtown for name acts and big events. As the national concert market rebounds, SMG needs to be aggressive about making that case to promoters, including those selling minority and rock acts. Then arenagoers need to prove SMG right.