Lutz Blog

Bob Lutz: Luxury boxes at Koch Arena? Sign me up

Charles Koch Arena at Wichita State University
Charles Koch Arena at Wichita State University File photo

We all want luxury, whatever that is.

Your luxury might not be my luxury. I have a chair at home that I sit in every night while I watch television. My chair is luxurious in my small world.

Others, though, want more bang for their buck. And that’s why luxury boxes inside big arenas all across the world are such a big deal. With luxury comes status. And with status comes luxury.

Hard to attain one without the other.

Now we’re hearing, whether we should have heard or not, that Wichita State is considering, perhaps even moving toward, adding luxury boxes to Koch Arena.

Shocker basketball coach Gregg Marshall let this Ashera cat – Asheras go for between $20,000 and $100,000, keeping with our luxury theme – out of the bag during his radio show Monday night. I’m pretty sure he wasn’t supposed to do that, but he’s Gregg Marshall, so who’s going to stop him?

Now it’s all that any Shocker fan can talk about. Because even if you can’t afford luxury, you like knowing it’s nearby.

I have nothing against sprucing up Koch Arena. And as anybody in the sports/entertainment industry will tell you, luxury boxes are a great way to increase revenue. Stick a bunch of fat cats – I mean, Ashera cats – in a luxury box and count your money.

Corporations, many with money to burn, like leasing luxury boxes to wine and dine clients, who love eating and drinking on a corporation’s dime.

Presumably, the addition of luxury boxes at Wichita State would have a pretty steep price tag. Luxury never comes cheap.

According to sources with knowledge of the preliminary plans, one concept features eight to 12 luxury boxes built into the east side of the arena, accessible from existing rooms. There also are apparently plans to build a student services building next to Koch Arena, another secret divulged by Marshall on his radio show, with the goal being to free up some office space inside a crowded Koch.

Wichita State has the most aggressive, happening president since Franklin Roosevelt. John Bardo has already transformed much of WSU’s campus and his work is just beginning. The man has no fear and it’s going to be fascinating to watch his ideas come into fruition over the next several years.

But raising money is hard, even for really cool projects like luxury boxes.

Wichita State basketball has never been hotter, though. Marshall has a Midas touch and so do many of the Shockers’ shooters. As long as they keep making more baskets than the opposition, raising roofs is a fantastic idea. To the moon with the Koch Arena roof. To … the … moon.

Marshall made it clear he’s a proponent of Koch luxury boxes and since he’s the highest-paid coach in WSU history, by a long shot, increased revenue is always something the athletic department is looking for.

But what about the little guy? Will there still be opportunities for the guy who pulls down a modest salary and wears a blue collar to get into Koch Arena for a basketball game?

And how long can this unbridled success continue? Marshall shows no signs of slowing down, but he’s 51 and has expressed numerous times that he doesn’t want to coach into old age. Plus, there’s still a chance he would leave for the perfect job, right? As much as Marshall loves his job at Wichita State, there will continue to be pursuers who believe they can sweet talk him into taking their deal.

What happens if Wichita State builds a bunch of luxury boxes inside Koch Arena and nobody comes? Even with all of Marshall’s success, it’s naive to take it for granted. Koch Arena is a wild-and-crazy venue these days, but every Shocker fan can remember when it wasn’t.

And what about the Missouri Valley Conference, which the Shockers bowled after last season to the tune of 18-0?

You don’t want a bunch of people in those luxury boxes fighting over the couch so they can take a nap during games. The Valley is in a precarious place, starting its second season without Creighton and surely wondering whether adding Loyola was the right move (it wasn’t).

If someone could tell me that adding luxury boxes would make the Shockers more attractive to another conference – the Mountain West, perhaps? – then give me a shovel or an ax or whatever tool I need to help out.

Adding luxury boxes would create more opportunity for revenue, undoubtedly, and who knows what else. But there is risk. Koch is an old building that, thanks to a major renovation in 2003, looks much newer than it is. Wichita State has done a nice job keeping the place up. And adding luxury boxes might be a great and logical next step.

I’m just sad I won’t ever get to sit in one. Luxury precludes me.

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