Wichita downtown arena open records failure

Yesterday, the company that manages the Intrust Bank Arena (the downtown Wichita arena) announced a lease with the arena’s flagship tenant, the Wichita Thunder hockey team. But we don’t know the details of the lease. Unbelievably, some Sedgwick County Commissioners and managers are okay with that.

The Wichita Eagle article Details of Intrust Bank Arena contract with Thunder are a secret reports the details.

I believe that the Eagle will be successful in pursuing a copy of the lease agreement from SMG (the company managing the arena for Sedgwick County) under the Kansas Open Records Act. Here’s why:

The KORA states that “‘Public agency’ means the state or any political or taxing subdivision of the state or any office, officer, agency or instrumentality thereof, or any other entity receiving or expending and supported in whole or in part by the public funds appropriated by the state or by public funds of any political or taxing subdivision of the state.”

Although immediately next comes an exception, excluding “Any entity solely by reason of payment from public funds for property, goods or services of such entity.”

I believe the exception is meant to prevent a company who, say, sells pencils to the county from being subject to KORA.

But the relationship between SMG and the county is different. Sedgwick County has outsourced the management of the arena to SMG. The county is paying SMG, too. According to the contract, $8,000 per month at this time.

The county and SMG have a broad nondisclosure agreement in their contract, although this can’t override the KORA.

Besides the legalities of this, SMG and Sedgwick County need to find a way where this lease agreement can be made available to the public. I recently obtained a copy of the existing lease agreement between the Thunder and the county in anticipation of comparing it with the new agreement, the one shrouded in secrecy.

If SMG decides to keep this contract secret, it will be a public relations disaster for them.

It’s also a strike against the Sedgwick County managers who negotiated the contract with SMG that contains this provision, and against the commissioners who voted for it. Sedgwick County Commissioner Tim Norton seems to be the prime apologist for the secret contract.

Let’s hope that SMG changes their mind soon and releases the contract.


2 thoughts on “Wichita downtown arena open records failure”

  1. At a recent meeting I attended Commissioner Karl Peterjohn explained that the contract between SMG and the Thunder was not a public- private contract as it was with the former Seg. Co. Thunder contract. It was my take on his comments that he would prefer the agreement were made public, but since it was a contract between to private entities
    it was up to their discretion to disclose the nature of the contract. Craig

  2. Parking for the downtown Arena is just now being discussed? Those that will use the Arena should pay appropriately.
    I am sure the speculators that bought up the property around the area are drooling and now it is time to pay the piper. As for me, my family, and what is left of my hard earned money, we will stay home.
    The Arena Folly should not be placed on the backs of those in Sedgwick County or Wichita residents.
    Such spending during these hard times was born of either vanity or corruption. Most likely, it is a mixture of both ingredients having risen to the highest levels within our political and governing leaders.
    That leaves very little room for honesty, integrity, and common sense.

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