Tourney coming to Wichita next year

It’s not Koch Arena, but it’s close enough.

Next spring, Intrust Bank Arena will host the first and second rounds of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship on March 15 and 17. Intrust Bank is in downtown Wichita and beat-out Oklahoma City, Kansas City, Tulsa and Omaha in a competitive bid process in 2014 to bring the tournament to town.

To win, Wichita State, the Missouri Valley Conference, Intrust Bank Arena, the Greater Wichita Area Sports Commission, Sedgwick County, the City of Wichita and Visit Wichita collaborated to attract the NCAA.

“It’s a testament to how much Wichita loves basketball,” said A.J. Boleski, general manager for Intrust Bank Arena. “We realize how much this means to the community and cannot wait to have Wichita’s world-class facilities in the national spotlight.”

Intrust Bank Arena was built seven years ago with taxpayer money from Sedgwick County. Bringing the tournament to Wichita looks to return some of that investment to the community.

Visit Wichita estimates the increased traffic to the area will generate $10 million for area businesses, including restaurants, hotels, bars and stores.

The last men’s NCAA basketball tournament appearance in Wichita was in 1994 at the Kansas Coliseum, where four-fifths of The Fab Five of Michigan squared-off with Pepperdine and Texas. St. Louis, Maryland, Massachusetts, and Southwest Texas State also traveled to Wichita that year.

The Intrust Bank arena will start undergoing $3 million in upgrades in the next 6 months.

“We’re about as ready as we can be at this stage,” said Brad Pittman, associate director of athletic facilities and operations, in a statement. “It’s going to be a long year but a fun year ahead.”