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Archive for Saturday, October 2, 2004

Opposition strong to Wichita arena, new poll finds

Residents against proposal 2-to-1

October 2, 2004

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— A new poll shows Sedgwick County residents would defeat a downtown Wichita arena proposal by a 2-to-1 ratio.

A county plan to fund an arena with a 1 cent sales tax increase over 30 months would fail 64 percent to 33 percent right now, according to a poll conducted by Survey USA for KWCH-TV and The Wichita Eagle.

Only 3 percent of those polled were undecided.

The poll of 461 likely voters had a margin of error of plus or minus 4.5 percentage points.

Arena backers said they weren't discouraged by the poll because they had a month left before Election Day to campaign for the arena.

County Commission Chairman Tom Winters, who has led the arena effort, said he was disappointed, but he thought arena advocacy would increase as the election neared.

"Those numbers do surprise me," said Wichita Mayor Carlos Mayans, who has guided the city's drive for the arena. "I think that we have done a good job of educating the public."

Opposition was strongest among voters over age 65, those who didn't attend college and rural voters.

College graduates (57 percent to 40 percent) and people who identified themselves as politically "liberal" (57 percent to 41 percent) provided the smallest margins of defeat for the proposal.

The county, which proposed the sales tax to fund a $184.5 million arena for the downtown area, has said that if the measure fails, it will go ahead with a $55 million renovation of the Kansas Coliseum complex that would be paid for by property taxes. The county hasn't said how much property taxes would be increased.

"I think the public has to realize that if they vote 'No' on the arena downtown, they are voting 'Yes' to spend $55 million at the Kansas Coliseum, and that is also tax dollars," Mayans said.

Sullivan, Higdon & Sink, the Wichita advertising agency that created the ad campaign, plans the bulk of the campaign to take place in October, with a surge in media ads during the two weeks before the election.

Winters said he still was optimistic about the downtown arena, which would be owned and operated by the county.

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