What Is INTRUST Bank Arena Doing to Prepare for the NCAA Tournament?
On March 15 and 17, 2018, March Madness returns to Wichita for the first time in 24 years. Thousands of college basketball fans from around the country will stream into INTRUST Bank Arena for the first and second round games of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Championships.
No matter how the games play out, hosting the tournament is a huge win for the city of Wichita and for the seven-year-old arena.
It’s also, said INTRUST Bank Arena Assistant General Manager Chris Kibler, a tremendous undertaking. Kibler serves as chair of the arena’s NCAA committee.
She shared with 360Wichita.com some of the preparation, planning and hard work that goes into hosting such a major sporting event.
Last year, Sedgwick County, which owns the arena, approved nearly $3 million in upgrades to the facility.
Arena patrons may have already noticed one of the major capital improvement projects—an upgrade to the north, or “C” entrance. That entrance is currently closed during renovations.
“In the past, the [north entrance] just had a one-way escalator and two elevators,” said Kibler. “It created quite the bottleneck if you needed to come downstairs. So we’re expanding that space, doubling the amount of doors, and adding a set of stairs so there can be two-way traffic. During the NCAA tournament, there will be a lot of people coming and going.”
The renovation is slated for completion in November, at which time the entrance will reopen.
The NCAA requires a significant amount of space for media. A second major project is turning the arena’s event storage room, which houses all the chairs, tables, and the staging deck, into a media space that can accommodate more than 300 people. “We have to have emergency exits in place,” said Kibler, “as well as an entrance for the teams to be able to come in from the locker room area for press interviews.”
Improved Wi-Fi Coverage
Sedgwick County and arena officials are working with Cox Communications, one of the arena’s founding partners, to improve high-speed Wi-Fi availability to the facility. This will be good news for arena patrons, as lack of access has been a source of frustration at past events.
“We’re currently in the process of installing an upgraded Wi-Fi system,” said Kibler. “We want to make sure that every guest in the building will have access to utilize Wi-Fi, and that the NCAA specifically has the ability to cover their Wi-Fi needs.”
One of the biggest logistics challenges for arena staff will come on the first day of the tournament, which consists of two sessions of two games each. Staff must safely and efficiently clear a sell-out crowd of 15,000 people from the building after the first session, then clean and change the building over before ushering in another sell-out crowd.
The INTRUST Bank Arena team is well-prepared and practiced. “For our staff, this process will be very similar to the  Garth Brooks Tour,” said Kibler. To meet demand, Brooks performed several double-header concerts, playing two shows per night to full audiences.
There will also be a cadre of volunteers to help make the tournament a success. Wichita State University and the Greater Wichita Area Sports Commission are coordinating that process. WSU and the Missouri Valley Conference will serve as hosts at INTRUST Bank Arena, in partnership with the Sports Commission, Visit Wichita, Sedgwick County and the City of Wichita.
Representatives from these groups have been meeting regularly, said Kibler, to ensure that they are meeting NCAA’s requirements and are on pace with preparations. INTRUST Bank Arena will be ready as it, and the entire city of Wichita, take the national spotlight next March.