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Cities jump into new arenas

Wichita’s new Intrust Bank Arena will open on a high note Jan. 9 when country crooner Brad Paisley takes the stage, but city leaders have more than concerts in mind for the 15,000-seat venue four blocks from the Century II Performing Arts and Convention Center in downtown.
Like several other new arenas in second-tier and smaller cities, Wichita’s arena opens up new possibilities for meetings and events.

In regard to the arena, “from a pure meetings perspective, our biggest target is religious groups,” said Maureen Hofrenning, vice president for Go Wichita

Kansas’ largest city has been limited to religious gatherings of 5,000 or fewer, the largest assembly the convention center could accommodate. Now, it can pursue groups two to three times as large.
Sports events are another logical market for the facility. Already, the Intrust Bank Arena has booked a Kansas high school state wrestling championship for February and the first round of the NCAA Women’s Division I Basketball Championship in 2011.

In Louisville, a new 22,000-seat arena under construction on the Ohio River in downtown has attracted not only the 2012 NCAA Women’s Volleyball Championships and a 2012 NCAA men’s basketball regional playoff, but several large religious conventions.

The Church of the Nazarene will bring its 24th Annual Global National Youth International Conference to Louisville in July 2011, and in 2013, the United Pentecostal Church International will hold its North American Youth Conference in the city. In total, the groups will bring 32,000 youths to Louisville, and they’ll have an estimated economic impact of $8.5 million.

The Louisville downtown arena will also market a substantial amount of meeting space. Scheduled to open in November, the arena will have 32,000 square feet of meeting space in four meeting rooms, three with river views. The arena’s 7,000-square-foot riverfront restaurant and its 14,000-square-foot lobby will also be available for private bookings.

Downtown Louisville has built up in the last several years, and its 4,000 hotel rooms, numerous restaurants, museums and other attractions will make the arena more attractive to large conventions.

In Wichita, the Intrust Bank Arena is expected to further invigorate downtown. Already, the mayor has launched a downtown development initiative.

“When you build a building like this in downtown, it spurs other development,” said Hofrenning.
Although none has been announced yet, there’s talk of new hotels near the convention center, which would add to the 1,000 hotel rooms already available downtown. A trolley system is in place that runs evenings and on Saturdays. During conventions, it will run for additional hours.

In Independence, Mo., early bookings at the recently opened Independence Events Center  indicated pent-up demand. More than 100 events have already been scheduled in its first year. The $68 million facility includes a multipurpose arena with 5,800 fixed seats, 25 luxury suites, a bar and grill, and a community ice rink. On the outskirts of town, the facility has 2,000 free parking spaces. Because of its design, fans are always near the action during sports events, with no seat more than 16 rows from the action.

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