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Wichita venues gearing up for full return of concerts, other events

Updated: Jun. 8, 2021 at 11:13 PM CDT
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WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) - It’s an exciting time for event venues in Wichita. After more than a year of little to no revenue, venues are gearing up for concerts and other events to return in full swing.

Disney on Ice starts Wednesday at INTRUST Bank Arena. It is one of the bigger acts to come through the arena in downtown Wichita since before the COVID-19 pandemic. But it caused a scheduling conflict for the Wichita Thunder hockey team as one of the top teams in the ECHL begins its playoff run at the Wichita Ice Center.

For the Thunder’s playoff opener Tuesday night, more than 700 fans were in attendance. That crowd was big enough to fire up the Thunder at the ice center, but Wichita is used to larger, more spaced-out crowds at INTRUST Bank Arena. Despite the move to a smaller venue, fans were excited to experience playoff hockey in Wichita.

“It could still be a cool experience. Obviously it’s a much smaller venue, so I think it’s going to be a cool atmosphere and we are able to get a lot louder and not so spread out in this arena,” Thunder fan Zachary Lacey said ahead of Tuesday night’s game at the Wichita Ice Center.

INTRUST Bank Arena Director of Sales Christine Pileckas said the Thunder will return to their home arena if they get passed the first round of the Kelly Cup playoffs. Wichita lost Tuesday’s opener, 3-2 against the Fort Wayne (Ind.) Komets. The teams return to the Wichita Ice Center Wednesday night for Game 2.

“We had Disney on Ice booked. The Thunder had a fantastic season. We are sad to have to see them host their first games at the ice center, but we are confident they will win the first round and we will have them back for round 2,” Pileckas said.

After more than a year of empty seats, INTRUST Bank Arena is gearing up for a July in which it can finally operate at full capacity.

“Sales are on track, everyone is excited to get out the door, get to an event, see live entertainment, do something they haven’t been able to do for the last year and a half,” Pileckas said. “We are very pleased with ticket sales and turnout.”

Pileckas said PBR (Professional Bull Riding) and Monster Jam brought in big crowds, but Disney on Ice will bring in the most people since before the pandemic.

“We are thrilled to be getting back to what we do best and doing what we love and providing live entertainment to our community here in Wichita, seeing downtown Wichita come alive again,” she said.

INTRUST Bank Arena isn’t the only venue excited for what the upcoming months have in store.

‘We are really excited,” said WAVE Manager Adame Hartke. “We opened last Thursday and had four great shows in a row. And it’s really needed at this point after being closed for 15 months, to come back to a sold-out show.”

Hartke said this Thursday’s show, Jamey Johnson with Whiskey Myers, is the first sold out concert since before the pandemic. It’s much needed support after a year full of hardships.

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