Wichita State basketball fans got the answer to the question "Will Intrust Bank Arena help scheduling?"
Yes, the downtown arena can be helpful.
Monday's announcement of the Nov. 25 game against Alabama-Birmingham is proof. The game, organized and promoted by Russ Potts Productions, gives WSU a deal it couldn't make for a game at Koch Arena.
"No question about it," senior associate athletic director Darron Boatright said. "This is a direct result of us having a fantastic playing facility right here, and the passion of our fan base."
WSU will play a good opponent in front of its fans and earn a $125,000 guarantee — all without needing to return a game to UAB's campus. The Blazers finished the regular season in the top 60 of the power rankings, according to Jerry Palm's RPI simulation, the past four seasons. Last season, UAB won the Conference USA regular-season title and played in the NCAA Tournament's First Four. UAB receives the same guarantee as WSU.
"It's a good business decision for us," Boatright said. "It's a good competitive decision for our basketball program."
WSU played the first basketball game in the downtown arena against Tulsa in December. This game differs in many respects.
It will not be part of WSU's season-ticket package. The promoter will organize the November game and handle ticket sales through Select-A-Seat and the arena box office. The promoter will also handle parking and hospitality events before the game.
WSU season-ticket holders will get first crack at tickets. They will receive a promotional code which allows them to purchase any available seat. The order in which season-ticket holders will be allowed to buy tickets is determined by WSU's priority points system. Russ Potts Productions will reserve an undetermined amount of seats for the general public, to go on sale in September. Intrust Bank Arena luxury boxes and loge seats are not included.
"We will have a substantial number (of tickets) for WSU folks and a substantial number for the general public," said Zach Franz, senior vice president for Russ Potts Productions. "We wanted to bring a marquee event to the arena. It's a great venue. WSU basketball has a great fan following. UAB has a very good basketball name."
Franz said the game's television rights are controlled by the Missouri Valley Conference, meaning Fox Sports Kansas City or an ESPN network are options.
"It will be a date that we'll have a pretty good chance to get it on TV," Boatright said of the day after Thanksgiving. "We're looking at all of it."
WSU needs one game to complete its schedule. Boatright said he would prefer to leverage the opening into a home-and-home series or a neutral-court game. As a backup plan, WSU is talking with opponents from lesser conferences for a guarantee game at Koch Arena.