- Meg Minard
INTRUST Bank Arena – Wichita Thunder
Photos by Meg Minard, Stadium Journey
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.43
INTRUST Bank Arena 500 E Waterman Wichita, KS 67202
Year Opened: 2010 Capacity: 13,400
INTRUST Bank Arena is a sport and entertainment venue in downtown Wichita, KS and is the home of the Wichita Thunder minor league ice hockey team. The Thunder have been a franchise since 1992 and played 21 years in the now disbanded CHL (Central Hockey League). Beginning the 2014 season the Thunder moved to the ECHL and the games just don’t seem as much fun as they used to be (though the level of play is higher).
The Thunder began play in the Brett Brown Arena and moved to the comfortable state-of-the art INTRUST Bank Arena in the 2010 season. The arena celebrated its fifth season of operation in 2015. The arena has an interesting architecture. Near one of the entryways there is a structure shaped like an airplane fin. I’m assuming this is honoring the aviation in the area as Wichita is known as the Air Capital of the World.
Food & Beverage 4
An expected variety of food options are available at INTRUST Bank Arena at traditional high stadium prices.
Some of the option available are:
Chisholms East near section 101 offers vegetarian dishes such as wraps, salads, hummus, etc.
Gotcho Nachos for Mexican (chips, burritos, and signature margaritas)
The Dog Shack has your hot dogs ($4.00 – $9.00) depending on selection and most are served with kettle chips
Rub my Belly Mesquite Smoked Barbeque offers sliders, nachos, bbq sandwiches, and sampler dinner ($9.00 – $11.00)
Papa Johns offers pizza and other traditional Italian dishes
Midway Grill has fried and grilled philly steak and chicken choices including two unique items: deep fried pretzels and deep fried vegetables ($6.00)
Most combo baskets range from $9.50 – $12.00. A kid’s hot dog combo (dog, fries, and 16 oz soda) is $6.00 and may be your most affordable choice if eating at the venue.
Draft beer (mostly the domestic variety – Bud, Bud Light, Miller Light, Shock Top, etc) is $7.50. The Irish Pub concession offers Guinness, Harp, Angry Orchard Cider, and a Uinta’s IPA for a little more variety.
A Budweiser Brew Pub and Grill is located near section 110 for additional adult beverages.
Pepsi (and Dr Pepper) is the soda of choice. Nice to see they have Dr. Pepper but I didn’t notice a stand with a Diet Dr. Pepper option.
INTRUST Bank Arena is a newer ECHL venue and celebrated its fifth season in 2015. It is an okay arena in which to watch a hockey game; somewhat the same as other newer venues with a few unique characteristics.
It is easy to purchase a ticket at the venue (though tickets are an additional $2 – $5 when purchased game day). One must travel an escalator up to section 100 – which is different but not bad, and the concourse is plenty wide.
To sit center ice, facing the bench, above the glass choose section 102, above row M (103 would be better but it looks like that’s sold out for Thunder games). The second level of the arena is curtained off to enhance the feel of a full crowd. All seats are cushioned, comfortable, and have cup holders.
Attendants are not quite as welcoming as when the Thunder were in the CHL. One example is now you have to get a wrist band to purchase alcohol (not uncommon at all). But they didn’t check ID’s (I know I’m old and don’t look under 21 but why bother with the wrist band if IDs aren’t checked)? And, the band HAD to be on the right wrist (not the left) with no explanation except that’s what they were told to do.
The temperature in the arena is fine; not too cold. A sweater or jersey will suit most fans. Scarves or gloves are not needed.
Plenty of giveaways and promotions occur between periods: t-shirts, frisbees, chuck-a-puck and at the Halloween game I attended lots of candy was being distributed. At the same game, special messages were painted in pink on the ice for Breast Cancer Awareness – Pink at the Rink.
Downtown Wichita is a great city to visit. It has several museums and many art galleries. A six block sculpture walking tour is in downtown as well as an art walking tour. When visiting a Thunder game, be sure to take a crisp autumn walk to Old Town, a historic brick-lined neighborhood with many of the old brick warehouses renovated into shops, restaurants, bars and nightclubs.
I would recommend visiting River City Brewery (in Old Town) to pass time before the game. It’s in one of the historic converted brick warehouses and it has a fantastic atmosphere, great food (one of the better burger/fries I’ve tasted in quite some time), superior tasting beer (try the IPA and any of the seasonal beers they might be brewing at the time of your visit), and excellent service. It also has lots of clever quotes and sayings hanging on the walls.
A newer brewery/restaurant well worth visiting is The Hungry Heart. It is right next door, outside the north side of the arena and is a very comfortable place to have a drink (excellent beer offerings) and a bite to eat. I am told they are going to start brewing their own beers late in 2015.
And to get one of the best barbeque in Kansas, check out Bite Me BBQ just a few blocks from the arena.
Be sure to visit the Botanical Gardens, the Old Cowtown Museum and take a visit to the Museums on the River. Take time to marvel at the Keeper of the Plains structure at the meeting of the Arkansas and Little Arkansas rivers.
Several hotels are in walking distance (1/2 mile) to the arena. I’d recommend the Hotel at Old Town located in a landmark 1906 warehouse building (don’t worry, all modern comforts are available). Some other hotels in the downtown area include Ambassador Hotel, Hyatt Regency, and Fairfield Inn and Suites.
Downtown Wichita is a safe neighborhood in which to walk and I had no concerns walking back to the hotel after the game in the dark.
Fans are into the game and the banter and they are vocal. The Thunder fans seem to like the fighting even more than the goals. Lots of cowbells can be heard.
The one fan, Center Ice Steve, has been attending Thunder games since their inception. After every Thunder goal he yells “He Shoots!” and most of the fans yell back “He Scores!” It’s a nice tradition.
Some of the die-hards notice a difference between the CHL and ECHL level of play; ECHL is faster. And, they are still getting use to the new teams in the ECHL and are glad to have some old rivalries back like the Colorado Eagles.
The attendance for a Wichita Thunder game falls in the middle of the pack of other ECHL teams averaging 4,000 – 5,000 a game which is a tad lower than when they played in the CHL.
The security is not as easy as it used to be in the CHL days (or in the times we now live). After a thorough bag search each individual is wanded (outside the doors of the venue; not inside). It’s not a warm welcoming into the venue.
Parking can cost up to $12 near the stadium. The Old Town area several blocks away has garages which are free to the public so those might be your best bet if walking up to a 1/2 mile is do-able for you. You may be able to find some free street parking south of the arena. Or, consider parking a distance away and riding the Q-Line. The Q-Line Trolley is a free trolley shuttle that can get you to the arena if staying at a hotel not within walking distance to the arena.
Since it is such a new arena concourses are plenty wide, bright, clean, shiny, and people flow is smooth.
Bathrooms are exceptional. The stalls are wide and contain a hook and a shelf, they’re automated and clean. There are plenty of them so there is no wait even between periods at a Thunder game
Wichita Mid-Continent Airport is about 15 miles from the INTRUST Bank Arena.
Return on Investment 3
Ticket prices seem to be on par with other ECHL arenas. However, the up to $5 extra when purchasing a ticket game day is excessive. The price for parking is a bit high, though there are alternate methods for parking and access to attending a game in Wichita. Game day programs are $1 and are worth the investment. Food and drink prices also seem a bit high. Overall, the return is low to average based on the overall experience.
Plenty of banners and retired numbers are hung from the rafters at INTRUST Bank Arena for when the Thunder were with the Central Hockey League (CHL). None yet for the ECHL as they are a new member of that league. Kudos to the Thunder and INTRUST Bank Arena for proudly displaying the hockey history of the team.
Stop by and say hello to the friendly folks at the Wichita Thunder Storm Booster Club table on the concourse.
Merchandise (mostly clothing) is available at a team store though no hat pins or pennants are available for purchase.
If travel takes you to Wichita in the fall or winter, or if you live in the area haven’t yet been and you like hockey, a visit to a Thunder game is a worthwhile entertainment choice. Downtown Wichita is a walk-able city and has several hotels, museums, restaurants, and a variety of other tourist attractions.