Sedwick County’s deal with SMG to manage the new downtown Wichita arena was tested after the firm declined to release details of the Wichita Thunder lease.
Sedwick County’s deal with SMG to manage the new downtown Wichita arena was tested after the firm declined to release details of the Wichita Thunder (CHL) lease.
The agreement to manage Intrust Bank Arena gives the county minimal oversight over the arena operations: basically, all the county can do is cash the checks. SMG can run the arena any way it wants as long as it makes proper payments to the county — which will lack the power to actually determine if they are indeed proper, because the county lacks the power to audit the books.
The issue came to a head yesterday when the Thunder, SMG and Intrust Bank Arena officials held a press conference to announce the team’s commitment to play in the new arena when it opens. Predictably, the press asked for a copy of the lease and details about the deal, but SMG officials refused to release any information whatsoever. (Probably not the best move on the part of SMG officials; just because you can keep something secret doesn’t mean you must.) And since taxpayers are paying for the new arena — SMG didn’t put up a dime toward construction — some basic level of accountability must be maintained.
Still, nothing will change. County officials puilled a Sargeant Schultz when it came to the deal, and they didn’t seem to care that finances surrounding one of the biggest construction projects in county history would be hidden from taxpayers.