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Nath Placed 'On Leave' At Kansas Arena As Plans For New Downtown Arena Proceed

WICHITA (CelebrityAccess MediaWire) — Kansas Coliseum director John Nath was placed on administrative leave for the rest of September to give him time to "consider" if he plans to continue working for the county the Wichita Business Journal reported.

"He's not resigned nor has he been fired. A decision is up to him whether he wants to return," Assistant county manager Charlene Stevens told the Journal.

Nath's leave comes in the wake of a decision last summer to retain the services of the venue management firm SMG to run operations at the Sedgwick County Arena which is currently in the planning phase. Nath and his staff had made a pitch to run the new facility but lost out to SMG.

The new facility is slated to come online in 2009 at which time operations at Britt Brown Arena in the coliseum will wind down.

The new facility has become a source of controversy as well when a bid-opening at the county courthouse on Friday revealed that the project is expected to cost 78% more than the estimated cost provided to the public at the time of the vote to approve the construction in 2004, the Wichita Business Journal reported.

Despite this projected cost overrun, city planners have expressed confidence that the project will come in on budget, with the shortfall made up by dipping into the money budgeted for ancillary parking projects.

Only one firm, Wichita-based Dondlinger and Sons Construction submitted a bid although four had been invited to participate.

According to the Journal, City commissioner Tom Winters was happy with the bid, noting that it came in 3 million dollars less than his office had anticipated.

Not everyone was as ebullient however. Mayor Dee Stuart found the price hike troubling, telling the Journal "Do you know how you spell fiasco? A-R-E-N-A."

Despite the controversy, most observers seemed to agree that the city had invested too much in the project not to vote to move forward now. While he expressed concern about the costs, city Commissioner Kelly Parks told the Journal that "I'm looking forward to going forward with this. The time is long past for any revote." – CelebrityAccess Staff Writers