Sports planners love the amenities, affordability, central location and welcoming spirit of Wichita, Kansas, the Heart of Sports. The largest city in Kansas, Wichita has a diverse set of world-class sports facilities.
The community has a built-in base of sports-loving residents who root for everything from pro sports and college events to youth competitions and amateur matches. Plus, Wichita has an impressive roster of hotels, restaurants and things to do to keep competitors and fans busy away from the game.
Another asset to the sports scene in Wichita is the team at Visit Wichita that works together to attract sporting events to the city. Start here to get to know our team.
Insights from the team:
What are sports event planners most impressed with after hosting in Wichita for the first time?
Most don’t realize just how big of a city Wichita is and they are impressed by the fan support. When Wichita hosted the NCAA men’s basketball tournament in 2018, we were the first host city to sell out our ticket allotment. That same year, the U.S. Water Ski National Championships were one of the best attended in that event’s history. Plus, Wichita still holds the record for biggest crowd ever at a The Basketball Tournament (TBT) matchup.
Since that time, we’ve brought in national sporting events such as the National Wheelchair Basketball Association’s National Championship Series for multiple years and US Youth Soccer’s 2023 National Presidents Cup. Later this year, Wichita will host the 2023 National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) Men’s Soccer Championship (and again in 2024) and the National Junior College Athletic Association’s (NJCAA) DI Men’s & Women’s Soccer Championships.
What is a Wichita amenity most appreciated by sports planners?
They appreciate that Wichita offers big city amenities with small town charm and hospitality. We are big enough to fill venues, sell tickets and fulfill the needs of your event, but small enough that your event will likely make the nightly news.
What sporting event are people surprised to hear Wichita hosted?
We are proud to tell people we hosted the first and second rounds of the men’s NCAA basketball tournament in 2018 for the first time since building the new 15,000-seat INTRUST Bank Arena in downtown Wichita. We will again host men’s first- and second-round games in 2025. We also hosted first- and second-round games of the 2011 women’s tournament, and the women’s Sweet Sixteen and Elite Eight in 2022.
Get to know the team
Josh Howell, Vice President of Sports Development
Josh has more than 13 years of experience in sports and marketing and began at Visit Wichita in 2018 as Sports Sales Manager. In 2021, he was promoted to his current role.
Name one Wichita attraction you consider a must-see for out-of-towners: Chicken N Pickle has something for everyone – great food, a big outdoor entertainment space, live music, yard games, pickleball courts and so much more. The atmosphere can’t be beat! Another place I would recommend that’s off the beaten path is the Wichita Baseball Museum.
First major sports memory: Shagging balls during batting practice for the California Angels and hanging out in the locker room after games with my dad, who played 11 years in the big leagues. Looking back, I can see just how special and unique those moments were.
Most memorable sports event you’ve attended: My little brother was celebrating his 13th birthday at a Dallas Cowboys game in 2000 and I was there with my family. The Cowboys were playing the 49ers and as Terrell Owens celebrated his TD at midfield on the Star, Dallas safety George Teague proceeded to lay him out. Might not be a historic game but any Cowboys fans will remember that one!
He’s cheering: Arizona Wildcats, Wichita State Shockers, Arkansas Razorbacks, the Wichita Thunder, Los Angeles Angels, Dallas Mavericks and Wichita Wizards. Oh, and how ’bout them Cowboys!
He’s watching: "Tin Cup," reruns of “Jeopardy” and all things ESPN
Jessica Viramontez, Senior Sports Sales Manager
In 2018, Jessica joined the Visit Wichita team as a convention sales manager, marketing Wichita as a convention and meeting destination. She became a sports sales manager in 2021 and was promoted to senior sports sales manager in 2022.
Name one Wichita attraction you consider a must-see for out-of-towners: I love taking people to sample local flavors at breweries in Wichita. We have so many to choose from and many of them have incredible patios where you can lounge, listen to live music and just enjoy an evening out and about.
First major sports memory: Countless evenings going to neighborhood park with my dad and two older brothers. I would watch them practice kicking field goals and play catch. I was too little to have a turn so I would chase the ball for them and watch them with admiration. Those early moments set the tone for the rest of my childhood.
Most memorable sports event she’s attended: I stumbled upon the 2019 NBA Championship parade in Toronto where there were 1.5 million people in attendance. It was nuts! Extra special that I got to see Wichita’s very own Fred VanVleet up on one of the buses…with Drake!
She’s cheering: Go Shox! Chieeeefs! Kansas State Wildcats, Wichita Wind Surge, Wichita Regulators
She’s watching: A select few Bravo shows (sucker for some reality TV), Succession, Ted Lasso, The Bear
Jessica Buettgenbach, Sports Event Manager
Jessica joined Visit Wichita in 2014 as a sales coordinator before being promoted to partnership services manager in 2020. She became sports events manager in 2023.
Name one Wichita attraction you consider a must-see for out-of-towners: This is a tough question as we have so many attractions to choose from, but I have to go with Tanganyika Wildlife Park. The hands-on animal experiences are one-of-a-kind, and I love all the memories I have created both professionally and personally at the park over the years.
First major sports memory: Sitting in my living room, watching the 2008 NCAA National Men’s Basketball Championship and seeing Mario Chalmers hit the last minute 3-pointer to send the Kansas Jayhawks into overtime and eventually a National Championship.
Most memorable sports event you’ve attended: We have made it an annual family tradition with my husband’s family to attend a Sporting KC game every year. While the game and chants are always enjoyable and fun, I think the part I always look forward to the most is signing the Hallmark card for the Victory Project Match Day Honoree and then chanting for them at the beginning of the game.
She’s cheering: Kansas Jayhawks, Kansas State Wildcats, Wichita Wind Surge, Wichita Thunder
She’s watching: Station 19, Grey’s Anatomy, Netflix’s docuseries “Untold”
Zach Blessant, Sports Coordinator
Zach joined the team in 2022 in his current role.
Name one Wichita attraction you consider a must-see for out-of-towners: The Keeper of the Plains sculpture down on the Arkansas River during the nightly lighting. It’s a mesmerizing spot and a great place to get outdoors, explore and take in the beauty of a sunset over the river in downtown Wichita.
First sports memory: I remember sitting sideline at a Sporting KC game in their brand-new stadium.
Most memorable sports event you’ve attended: I attended Texas A&M’s Senior Night football game in 2021 with 106,000 other fans and will never forget seeing the Aggies take down No. 1 Alabama.
He’s cheering for: OKC Thunder, Wichita Sky Kings, FC Wichita
He’s watching: UFC
If you’re a sporting event planner and Wichita isn’t on your consideration list, it should be. Contact us to learn more!