Hutch voters to chart Sports Arena future

By Kara Gale

An artist’s conception of the expanded Sports Arena, showing the new south entrance.
An artist’s conception of the expanded Sports Arena, showing the new south entrance.

The Hutchinson Sports Arena has been around for 63 years, and it is finally time for some major renovations.

The city of Hutchinson is considering a $29 million project to get this done.

For residents of the city, that means an increase in sales tax.

This increase in tax will be put to vote, possibly on the ballot during the April municipal elections.

The proposed raise will be .35 to .4 cents per dollar for the next 10 years (a tax of about one-third of one cent per dollar spent).

This might not seem like much, but in the last three years, there have been two other increases in sales tax to the city that are still in effect.

Architectural plan showing the new additions, plaza areas and landscaped parking lots.
Architectural plan showing the new additions, plaza areas and landscaped parking lots.

Part of the money, though, will come from the college. HCC plans to give $4.5 million to the project in 9 installments of $500,000 a year over nine years.

The renovations are expected to take 18 months.

After the April election, architects will begin to draw up the official plans for the changes to the arena.

Construction is expected to begin after the 2016 National Junior College Athletic Association’s annual tournament, held in Hutchinson.

The Hutchinson Sports Arena has been home to the NJCAA men’s national basketball tournament for over 60 years.

However, the sports arena just doesn’t have the facilities needed to host this big of an event anymore. This is one reason for the proposed renovations.

There is a contract to continue holding the tournament in Hutchinson through 2017, but unless the sports arena makes some changes, it will find a new host in 2018.

Some of the issues brought up were inadequate restrooms and locker rooms, no full-size gym for warming up before games or practices, not enough meeting and hospitality space, inadequate concession stands, and the need for better seating options for those with disabilities.

There are also many structural, plumbing, and ventilation issues to be fixed.

The boiler is in poor condition, and air conditioning will finally be added to the arena.

The additions will include a new main entrance and ticketing area, along with more restrooms, on the south end, and two more gyms and a weight room will be added to the north end.

The construction will be done in phases so that the arena can still be used.

In addition to continuing to hold the NJCAA tournament, other benefits of these renovations will be more practice areas for the college’s volleyball and basketball teams.

Dr. Carter File, president of Hutchinson Community College, said, “The timing is right to do it now.”

This is especially true with all the modernization that needs to take place.

The extra space can also be used to host other community events and should be a great addition to the city of Hutchinson.

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