Wichita Entertainment Venues Coming Back To Life Following Pandemic Shutdown

Apr 6, 2021

After going dark because of the pandemic, many big entertainment venues in Wichita are reopening for live performances this spring.

Stages at the Orpheum Theatre, the Cotillion, Intrust Bank Arena and Wave have been dormant for more than a year.

The venues cancelled concerts and events, and temporarily shut down due to COVID-19 health restrictions. But now, they're starting to come back to life with new safety protocols.

The Orpheum

The historic Orpheum Theatre in downtown Wichita plans to reopen May 21 with a theatrical concert featuring local musician Jenny Wood.

“She will be incorporating one acts between her music, and it’s a mix of new music and all of the Jenny Wood songs you know and love,” says Mallory Rine, Orpheum marketing director.

The concert is the first live performance at the Orpheum since March 12, 2020. Marketing director Mallory Rine says she's in the process of rescheduling some events that were cancelled last year and booking new shows for the fall.

“We have quite a bit that we are getting ready to announce,” Rine says. “We look forward to starting with this Jenny Wood show. We’ll probably look at rescheduling some of the movies that we had to cancel for 2020. If we get touring acts wanting to start back up in the summer, we can’t wait to get those on the calendar.”

When patrons return to the Orpheum, they’ll notice new COVID-19-related protocols. Rine says they’re still finalizing the details and working through plans to keep guests and staff safe. The theatre is expected to open with reduced capacity: 400 seats out of 1,286 will likely be available. The seating map will be organized in groups of two or four, and a few larger groups.

“We’re working on how we can keep the lines and concessions distanced,” Rine says.  “We’ll have our staff and volunteers on deck between patrons in line and wiping down surfaces as much as we can, trying not to get in the way, but keeping it clean.”

The Orpheum is a nonprofit performing arts center built in 1922. Orpheum president Diana Gordon says utilities and insurance for the 33,000-square-foot building costs $7,000 a month. The mandated closure last spring forced the theater to spend its reserves to keep the theatre from closing permanently.

The Orpheum furloughed all employees early in the pandemic, and by the end of 2020, Gordon says they had to lay off five fulltime employees. The theater received a $50,000 grant from CARES Act funding in late December to bring back Gordon and Rine in January.

Gordon says she plans to apply for a $300,000 grant from the latest federal pandemic relief plan. The theater qualifies for help through the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant program.

“This is game-changing for us,” Gordon says. “We would not be able to reopen without this money. This is the money that is going to allow us to rehire staff so that we can open.”

The theater also received donations to help cover expenses during the pandemic shut down.

“The community response to supporting the theater with donations was overwhelming,” Rine says. “We had more than 200 first-time donors last year, which is above and beyond what we would see in any previous year.”

Intrust Bank Arena

Intrust Bank Arena in downtown Wichita opens for Wichita Thunder hockey games beginning Friday. The arena hosts the Thunder’s home games through the end of May.

The arena is hosting the two-day Professional Bull Riders (PBR) Wichita Invitational April 23-24. This will be the seventh year PBR’s Pendleton Whisky Velocity Tour comes to Wichita.

Beyond those sporting events, Intrust has concerts scheduled in the fall. Backstreet Boys will perform Sept. 11 and TobyMac on Oct. 9.

Intrust is working on rescheduling concerts and events cancelled last year during the pandemic.

The arena is implementing several new health and safety measures: 

  • Six-foot seating distance between groups of guests
  • Required face masks
  • Clear bag policy
  • Established contactless, self-service ticket scanning and concession purchases
  • Plexiglass barriers at point of sale locations
  • Social distancing signage
  • Mandated, strict hygiene and disinfecting procedures throughout the building

WAVE

Several local bands will take the stage at the venue in downtown Wichita on April 25. Fastball @ Smokey Sunday Fest features Kill Vargas, The Cavves, Miami Over Moon and others.

WAVE has one concert so far scheduled for May and four in June.

The Cotillion

The Cotillion’s first concert features Kolby Cooper on May 15. Two other concerts are scheduled for May and five in June.

The venue in west Wichita requires temperature checks for everyone (no one permitted with temps over 99.9), face masks and social distancing.

The Historic Fox Theatre in Hutchinson

The Fox Theatre in Hutchinson has its first concert May 8 with Riders in the Sky.  The venue will assign seating as patrons arrive to preserve social distance.  This is the first concert at the Fox Theatre since February 20, 2020.