Bob Lutz

Bob Lutz: NCAA’s announcement makes Intrust Bank Arena paid in full

Intrust Bank Arena will host a men's NCAA Tournament regional in its third attempt.
Intrust Bank Arena will host a men's NCAA Tournament regional in its third attempt. The Wichita Eagle

We Wichitans want to believe in ourselves, in our city, in what we have to offer.

It’s just so hard for us.

Norman Vincent Peale, we’re not.

Which is why so many of us basketball fans fretted, worried and paced about the NCAA bringing its heralded basketball to town, even after a long fight to build a downtown arena was approved by voters in 2004.

We didn’t build Intrust Bank Arena big enough. We don’t have enough hotel rooms. We wasted all this money on a building and the NCAA couldn’t find Wichita on a map.

I crossed my fingers Monday that the NCAA would announce Wichita and Intrust Bank Arena as one of its sites for the 2016, 2017 or 2018 tournaments.

When the cities were named for 2016, Wichita wasn’t on the list.

Ditto for 2017.

This is how we roll in Wichita. We’re never the first ones picked and sometimes we’re not picked at all. We are used to being wallflowers, even though we have great dance moves.

I’ve always been of the opinion that Wichita and the arena would eventually get to host some NCAA Tournament games. I believed it with all my heart; it was just hard to find others who felt the same way.

But I started to doubt when Wichita wasn’t named as a host city for 2017. There was just one more year to go, eight more cities and venues. We were going to be snubbed again.

And suddenly, Wichita was picked. The NCAA, it turns out, likes us. It really likes us.

There is joy in Doo-Dah. We feel like we belong and Wichita State basketball gets the credit for giving all of us a little more bravado. The Shockers won the NIT in 2011, cracked the NCAA Tournament field in 2012, made it to the Final Four in 2013 and went on a 35-0 run last season before losing to Kentucky in the third round of the NCAA Tournament.

None of that had anything to do with getting the bid from the NCAA on Monday. The Shockers could have been 0-35 last season and still likely been awarded the tournament. But it may have had something to do with the people in charge of putting together the bid.

Maybe we’re a little more confident in ourselves, collectively, because of Wichita State’s basketball team. Maybe all of that success at Koch Arena is rubbing off.

What I know is Monday was a great day for Wichita. We love our basketball and getting the NCAA Tournament to town for two four glorious days in 2018 will be a huge economic and morale boost.

Fans from all over the country will be here. So will media members, free of the smell that plagued them the last time the NCAAs were in Wichita.

That was in 1994, when eight teams converged on the Kansas Coliseum and the media workroom was in an adjacent pavilion where the smell of cattle was obvious. I think retired Boston Globe columnist Bob Ryan is still washing that odor out of his suit jacket.

We have a great facility now and I’m told that officials have figured out a way to create enough space for the media to work inside Intrust Bank Arena, which has long been a concern of mine in attracting the tournament.

I know most of you would be just fine if those of us in the media worked in a broom closet just off a sewer line. But work space is something the NCAA looks at long and hard, just as it does transportation and hotel rooms.

Wichita met all of the prerequisites and the tournament will be jointly hosted by Wichita State and the Missouri Valley Conference.

The only bad news – if you can find any – is because WSU is involved in hosting the 2018 first and second rounds, Wichita State is ineligible to play in the tournament at Intrust, which means Shocker fans might be headed to Detroit, also picked us a first- and second-round site, instead of staying home to enjoy the biggest basketball party in more than 20 years.

But at least we can finally stop worrying.

Intrust Bank Arena is the building that just keeps on giving with concerts, rodeos, shows and now the NCAA Tournament.

I can’t help but think back to 2004, when Sedgwick County voters approved the 2 1/2-year, 1-cent sales tax for the downtown arena by a 52-48 margin after a tough campaign.

On Jan. 2, 2010, Intrust Bank Arena opened. Hard to believe the place is almost five years old.

Before Monday, though, something was missing. As great as Intrust has been for Wichita and south-central Kansas, a piece of the puzzle was amiss.

Now, though, the puzzle has been solved. The NCAA Tournament will be here before we know it. We should all pat ourselves on the back. Good job, Wichita.

Reach Bob Lutz at 316-268-6597 or blutz@wichitaeagle.com. Follow him on Twitter: @boblutz.

Related stories from Wichita Eagle

  Comments