Preparations underway: Wichita one year out from hosting NCAA tournament

Intrust Bank Arena (KSN File Photo)

WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – March Madness 2017 is underway, but if you ask Intrust Bank Arena employees, their minds are somewhere in 2018. March of 2018, to be exact.

Wichita’s Intrust Bank Arena will host the first and second rounds of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament. Preparations for the tournament have already begun to ensure the smoothest possible experience for guests, according to arena general manager, AJ Boleski.

“It seems like just yesterday we were able to make this announcement, at the time it seemed kind of far off. It’s not,” Boleski said.

A team from Intrust Bank Arena is down in Tulsa at the BOK Center, one of this year’s NCAA first and second round hosts. The team is taking notes, photos and shadowing BOK Center employees to gain a greater understanding of tournament logistics.

On Wednesday, the Sedgwick County Commission approved a bid from Key Construction to renovate parts of the Intrust Bank Arena, making for a more fan-friendly experience. That will include doubling the size of the north entrance where Boleski says, is one of three arena entrances, it garners 50 percent of the foot traffic.

“That’s the entrance that goes kind of toward Old Town, we anticipate a lot of traffic coming to and from that area,” Boleski said.

The arena has been working with Cox Communications to ensure all arena patrons receive free wi-fi while at the arena. Boleski says they’ve also been in talks with several cell phone companies to install a tower to boost the signal, but that would only apply to cell phone users of that specific cell phone carrier. That service has not yet been determined.

The renovations to the north entrance will take place this spring and run until the fall, taking place concurrently with arena events.

Downtown Wichita has big plans for the next year as well.

Jason Gregory with the Wichita Downtown Development Corporation said a number of things are planned, including some beautification projects on Douglas and a relaunch of the circulation trolley, with 8 to 10 minute frequency intervals.

“Our role is to essentially roll out the red carpet for all the people attending, putting our best foot forward for Wichita” Gregory said.

Trees will be planted and new benches, bike racks, and over 100 planter pots will be placed along Douglas.

“I think it will be a whole new atmosphere along Douglas,” Gregory said.

Changes to the Douglas underpass are in the design process, in hopes of making a more pedestrian-friendly experience where currently there is darkness and lots and lots of pigeons.

“It will mitigate the pigeon issue, do structural improvements, repaint the bridge and relight it. So an inviting connection between Old Town and the arena when these events are going on,” Gregory said.

A 2018 March Madness pre-sale ticket opportunity went out via email today stating tickets are available beginning this Friday, March 17 at 10am running until May 31.

First and second rounds of play are scheduled for March 15 and 17 in 2018.


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