It may have taken about two years longer than Mike and Tina Andra planned, but excitement hasn’t seemed to dim for their new Wichita Union Stockyards event center.
“Ticket sales have just been crazy,” Mike Andra said.
The almost 800-capacity venue is having a soft opening Saturday night that includes drinks, snacks and a concert by the Whiskey River Band.
“Last I checked there were about 500 tickets sold,” Andra said.
He said the Wichita area used to have almost a dozen country-and-western venues.
“They’ve all disappeared.”
Now, he said people — particularly those who no longer want to hang out in bars — are “just so hungry to have kind of nice, classy western type place where they can go and maybe have an adult beverage or two.”
In March 2017, the Andras announced they’d purchased 40 acres at 6425 W. MacArthur in Sedgwick County and planned several phases of construction that would include an event center and steakhouse among other things.
As owners of the country station KWLS, 107.9 FM, the Andras also plan to simulcast Friday and Saturday night concerts — local, regional and national — on the station.
For instance, Mike Andra expects the Moe Bandy New Year’s Eve show to be a big one.
“The plan is to simulcast . . . like the Grand Ole Opry used to,” he said.
The Andras initially expected to open the center by fall of 2017.
“Well, I really didn’t know how it would go,” Mike Andra said.
He’s a cattle rancher and has never been through a commercial construction process.
“You always have hiccups. . . . But I was never going to give up or settle for anything but the best.”
He said he’s “been working like a son of a gun” and was still waiting on a certificate of occupancy as of Friday morning.
“It looks like everything’s a go.”
Then he said he and a crew would be “moving a gazillion tables and chairs and fixtures” in along with sound equipment that he couldn’t have in the center during final inspections.
Doors open at 8 p.m. Saturday, and the $12 concert starts at 9 p.m.
Andra said he’s not ready to simulcast this first show but will be in time for Bandy’s show.
The Andras already have other concerts booked along with a lot of weddings, which is going to be a big part of the center’s business.
Mike Andra said there’s also been a lot of interest from area fundraisers to use the space.
He says others have suggested an outdoor venue with a possible 3,000-person capacity for the future along with a farmers market for that area of Wichita.
The Andras have had to turn away a lot of business during the wait on construction, but Mike Andra said he doesn’t regret taking his time.
“It’s well worth it,” he said. “I just wanted everything perfect.”
Now, he’s looking forward to celebrating the opening with at least 500 new friends.
“We plan on having a good time.”
Andra said he wants people to know what to expect. He describes the space as rustic.
“It’s a big barn.”
He said it’s classy but not fancy.
“You know the old country song. ‘I can get cleaned up if you ask me, but I can only get so fancy.’ ”