Tournament Destination Wichita
This year the NCAA Tournament fell on the same weekend of St. Patrick's Day giving
Wichitans and visitors a double dose of what our city has to offer. As I walked around the arena Saturday amongst a sea of green, intoxicated by the smell of smoked meats and sweet treats I thought to myself what a great day to be a Wichitan. Flanked by food trucks and street vendors under a clear blue sky the thumping of bass from Dj E drowns out the passing rumble of the trains. With several events around Intrust Bank Arena Wichita offered a plethora of entertainment options for party seekers and basketball fans alike.
Courtside on Commerce
Courtside on Commerce, located just south of the Intrust Bank Arena, did not disappoint. Put together by the brother and sister duo from Xclusive Event Services, Courtside on Commerce, provided a safe atmosphere for all who attended. Commerce Street featured a variety of food trucks, entertainment, tailgating games, and multiple watering holes. Xclusive Events coined the term “pop-up party” with several unique indoor bars connected by open-container drinking on the street between the venues. One such venue is The Hudson operated by Jessie Griffith. Built in the 1950’s, and recently renovated, the 11,000 square foot venue opened in the spring of last year providing a timeless atmosphere with attention to detail and friendly service.
One block over from Commerce street at the corner of St. Francis and Waterman Wichita Festivals Inc put on a party of its own. The Bracket Bash saw approximately 7,000 visitors Thursday and anticipates that many Saturday. With a life-size Tyrannosaurus Rex on one corner and Windwagon Smith on the other, the Bracket Bash boasts a super-sized TV screen with re-runs of “Who’s the Boss” streaming live all day… Just kidding (BASKETBALL!) Bracket Bash also included the Koch Big Shot Challenge, a four-foot diameter basketball goal in which contestants shoot orange exercise balls.
Wichita Brewing Company Tailgating Party
Immediately to the west of Intrust Bank Arena Wichita Brewing Company hosted a 25,000 sq ft tailgating party which included Buffalo Wild Wings, DJ’s, Bagpipers, food trucks, and of course beer! Nothing goes better with a finely crafted beer than pizza, WBC’s very own Hopperoni Express serving artisan wood-fired pizza. Set up under a large tent were several TV’s showing all of the games and another tent included the tailgating classic corn-hole. At the WBC tailgating party, it’s all about the beer! Wheat, Amber, Stout, IPA, or classic lager WBC provided options for every taste.
Battle of the Brackets ICT
Just to the north of WBC’s tailgating party is the Brick and Mortar event venue which provided over 28,000 sq ft of space for its patrons. The “Battle of the Brackets ICT” included an unmistakable 6,000 square foot glass tent with several TV’s, bars, and tables. The Brick and Mortar hosted the official KU pep rally Thursday morning before tip-off. After the games Battle of the Brackets provided live music and dueling pianos. Not an early riser… well, you missed out on an amazing Irish festival Saturday morning featuring the Knocknasheega Celtic Band,
Wichita Caledonian Bagpipe Players, and the talented ladies from the Corry Academy of Dancers.
One common thread that ran through every conversation Saturday was how the Wichita Police Department and private security companies fostered a safe, friendly environment for all to enjoy. Brandon Cooper, head of restaurant operations for WBC, said: “the WPD has been absolutely fantastic.” Ashley Owen from the Brick and Mortar enthusiastically commented: “the WPD has been phenomenal!” Whether it was on foot, mounted patrol, cars, or plain clothes the Wichita Police Department delicately balanced the line between safety and having fun. I personally saw smiles, high fives, and heard multiple comments thanking our men and women in uniform for their service.
Commonly overlooked was all of the city employees that worked endlessly behind the scenes for months preparing for this event. Perhaps the most patient and professional city employees were the transit workers. Having ridden the Q-line from The Monarch to Harry’s and throughout oldtown, our men and women of the transit system provided a safe mode of transportation between locations. Again, it’s the people! I will never forget what appeared to be a homeless woman riding the Q greeting riders and calling out stops.
Wichita! What an amazing city full of amazing people. The friendly, laid-back, attitude of Wichitans combined with the entrepreneur spirit of our great city made a lasting impression on visitors and locals alike. One such visitor, the “Michigan Man” Michael Lawrence from Brooklyn, New York lavished praises on Wichita and the events surrounding the arena. When asked what he most liked about Wichita and the tournament coming to town Lawrence replied “we have traveled all over the United States follow the NCAA tournament from city to city and hands down Wichita has the best atmosphere of any I have visited, we’ve been calling everyone and telling them how much they are missing out.” Wow, Wichita! Let that sink in. Lawrence continued, “Wichita is basketball everything and went all out on hosting the tournament.” As his service dog “rock” laid basking in the sun I asked Lawrence if there were any negatives about his experience “the airfare was high but the city made up for it with cheap drinks and no cover charges.” Indeed a seasoned party connoisseur. Our great city has again proved to be more than just a bump in the road or a stop for gas through Kansas. I have no doubt in the future that Wichita will attract more sporting tournaments, conventions, and businesses all looking for an unforgettable experience! Kudos Destination Wichita!