Hutchinson Sports Arena shows off improvements at NJCAA tournament

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The Hutchinson High School students sitting in the upper levels of the Hutchinson Sports Arena normally would have been sweltering on a warm day like Monday, while watching National Junior College basketball tournament games.

Instead, some of the students sitting were wearing hoodies and sweaters. That's because the arena added air conditioning as part of its makeover.

Two years ago, Hutchinson voters approved a sales tax dedicated to approximately $30 million in renovations for the arena built in 1953.

So after last year's NJCAA tournament ended, work began in earnest to update the facility.

There was concern at the time of the vote that the NJCAA might put the tournament hosting out for bids from other cities. "There was a lot of risk in losing this tournament," said Hutchinson Convention and Visitors Bureau Vice President LeAnn Cox.

It would have been a real blow to Hutchinson to have lost the tournament the city has hosted for several decades. Cox explained the tournament brings in about $1.5 million to the community from out-of-county visitors.

"The arena, itself, was just getting a little old," tournament Executive Director Mary Ellen Leicht admitted.

Dave Morris watched the games Monday and commented on the arena facelift. "I definitely think it's a big improvement.  It's really needed, and it looks like in the future it looks like it'll be a lot better situation for Hutchinson and the tournament."

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