Intrust Bank Arena gets ready for NCAA 2018

15 March 2017

When Wichita and Sedgwick County leaders pushed to get voters to approve the building of a new downtown arena, one thing they had in mind was hosting NCAA basketball tournament games again.  This time next year, Wichita will get its opportunity to host first- and second-round games.

To get ready for those games, Intrust Bank Arena personnel will travel to Tulsa this week to observe BOK Center hosting early-round games.

"We had a group of people who went down to Oklahoma City last year," Assistant General Manager Chris Kibler said Tuesday, "to watch the tournament and to see behind the scenes... How does it work? What's the layout work? What's the traffic flow look like?  What's the parking? What do the hotels do?  What does Fan Fest look like?  And so we're sending another crew down to Tulsa this year to do the same thing."

The last time Wichita hosted NCAA men's tournament games was in 1994 at the Kansas Coliseum.  Back then, a much younger John Calipari was coaching Massachusetts, future Kansas State Coach Tom Asbury was coaching Pepperdine, and the "Fab Five" were playing for Michigan - all in Wichita. But next year, new memories will be made.

'Wichita really wants to put its best foot forward," Kibler said, "because this is our goal. And the county's goal is to not be the one and only tournament, but rather being in the regular rotation of hosting these more frequently." That's why she said it's important to closely observe how Tulsa hosts its games.

Kibler added arena personnel have been meeting with other local leaders for many months, going over all the details to be ready for thousands of basketball fans to descend on the Air Capital. "We want to make sure that not only is the building ready, but the city is ready as well."

Kibler said there are some modifications to do at the arena between now and tournament time in 2018. One is turning a large storage room into a media working area, which will include the post-game interview room.

Another change to make, she said, with approval from the County Commission, is to entrance C on the arena's north side. It currently has one escalator, meaning people can only go up or go down depending on the escalator's direction at the time. Kibler said a stairwell needs to be built there as well. "It's already in the bank. It can already be paid for," she assured.

"We know that most of the traffic that will come to the tournament will be between Old Town and the arena," Kibler explained, "causing a lot more people to come in through the north side, entrance C."  

She said the last thing they want to see is a long line stretching back towards Douglas Avenue, making for a bad experience for out-of-state visitors who might then complain to the NCAA. But with those changes in mind, a very confident Kibler said, "We're ready."