Sedgwick County, Kansas, to Receive Major New Arena

A proposal to build the new downtown arena over the Arkansas River will get at least a quick look from Sedgwick County. The county has asked its team of arena experts to check out a proposal made two weeks ago by former county commissioner Dave Bayouth to construct the arena on pillars over the river near WaterWalk.

Assistant County Manager Ron Holt, the arena project leader, said he asked for an opinion on the idea from the consortium of architects who were hired by the county to design the new arena.

After considering four sites in the downtown area, commissioners in November approved a location on the east side of downtown, between the railroad tracks and Emporia Street.

"We're moving forward on the plan that we have, but we didn't want to just dismiss this out of hand," Holt said of Bayouth's proposal.

The county doesn't want the consortium to do an in-depth study, he said.

"We would just ask them to give us their professional opinion, without doing anything in a detailed study. That's cost and delay," he said.

The arena has a $184.5 million budget that is being financed by a one-cent sales tax. It will be owned and operated by the county.

Holt compared building the arena over the river to building an eight- to 10-lane bridge, raising questions about added costs and structural support.

Bayouth estimated it would cost an additional $18.4 million to build the arena over the river, but has not offered any studies to support that estimate.

Commissioner Ben Sciortino said the county followed the recommendations of the city and business leaders to build the arena in a defined area in the southeast portion of downtown Wichita.

He said the county hasn't heard anything from the business community or the city about Bayouth's plan.

Mayor Carlos Mayans and two city council members -- Jim Skelton and Paul Gray -- said the idea deserves a serious look, but that the city would not formally ask the county to study it.

Sciortino and two other commissioners, Tom Winters and Tim Norton, will travel Sunday to Little Rock, Ark., to tour the Alltel Arena, a one-concourse facility.

All five commissioners toured the double-concourse Ford Center in Oklahoma City two weeks ago.

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