Triple-A baseball will come to Wichita with new downtown stadium

Kansas

Wichita Mayor Jeff Longwell, Governor Jeff Colyer, and city council members announced that the New Orleans Baby Cakes, a Triple-A team and an affiliate of the Miami Marlins, has filed a relocation application to the city. 

“Triple-A baseball is the highest league of Minor League Baseball. This application is subject to the approval of Minor League Baseball, Pacific Coast League, and Baseball Office of the Commissioner before the club can locate to Wichita,” said Mayor Jeff Longwell.

An official decision from Minor League Baseball and the Pacific Coast League is expected later this year.

One National Baseball Congress Hall of Fame player calls it a big win.

“This has been a great place, a lot of great memories for myself playing in the NBC tournament here for 22 years and nine different teams,” says Terry Elliot, who won NBC titles as a player in 1986 and 1998. “But the new stadium? To me it’s a grand slam. I mean it’s unbelievable for the city of Wichita. And I know people have seen minor-league programs come through here but it is evolving into you have to have an entertainment value with a new stadium. Iit’s got to be an entertainment deal for families.”

And there will be entertainment surrounding the new stadium including a museum and space the NBC.

Lawrence-Dumont Stadium will be torn down within a year. The Wingnuts played their last game in the stadium on Labor Day. The new stadium will cost $60 to $73 million. STAR bonds and a TIF district will be formed to pay for the cost of the stadium. STAR bonds capture sales tax revenue in a development area and funnel it to project costs. 

The stadium will have 10,000 to 11,000 seats. The city hopes to have construction finished by 2020. 

The city started working on the project three years ago. Key partners in the project were the New Orleans team ownership, Cargill, and Greater Wichita Partnership, Emprise and Spirit AeroSystems. The state of Kansas also played a part.

“This is important for the future of the state of Kansas. This is one of the great amenities, one of the great things that makes Wichita a tourist destination. It is a second home, a weekend place for families across the state and from our neighboring states. Having a Triple-A baseball team right here in Wichita will add a lot to the lifestyle and to what is going on in this great community,” said Gov. Jeff Colyer.  

The attraction of affiliated baseball was identified in 2016 by Mayor Longwell as a crucial component of his quality of life initiative to rejuvenate the Arkansas River corridor with signature amenities as part of the city’s strategic effort to retain existing and attract new employee talent to Wichita. 

The mayor said the team will likely change their name.

City council member Pete Meitzner says he and the Mayor visited several cities with stadiums and the river theme kept rising to the surface.

“Seven years ago that was one of my frustrations. Why don’t we embrace the river?” said Meitzner. “There’s a couple of stadiums where they have an area overlooking the field and they have a luncheon every day regardless of the season. That will have businesses coming in, the chamber, it’s going to be an active place.”

Wichita has not had an affiliated team since the Double-A affiliated Wichita Wranglers left the city in 2006. Past teams to play in Wichita include the Pilots and Aeros. 

Wichita is also home to the National Baseball Congress. The National Baseball Congress will play at Wichita State’s Eck Stadium in 2019.

ON SOCIAL MEDIA | WATCH MAYOR JEFF LONGWELL’S ANNOUNCEMENT

PREVIOUS STORY FROM SEPTEMBER 5

Mayor Jeff Longwell is expected to announce plans on Thursday for the future of baseball in Wichita. Could it be the New Orleans Baby Cakes?

On Labor Day, the Wichita Wingnuts played their last game at Lawrence-Dumont Stadium. The stadium will be torn down. 

The stadium was also home to the National Baseball Congress  The National Baseball Congress will play at Wichita State’s Eck Stadium in 2019.

Online reports surfaced Wednesday of a Triple-A baseball team from the Pacific League coming to Wichita. KSN was told by sources that the team could be the New Orleans Baby Cakes. The team is a Triple-A affiliate of the Miami Marlins. KSN confirmed that the team has put in a request to either move or relocate in 2020.

WDSU, the NBC affiliate in New Orleans, said the future of the Baby Cakes remains unclear. The station reports that the team wrapped up their 2018 season this week. WDSU sports reporter Fletcher Mackel tweeted that the team is staying for the 2019 season, but there aren’t any solid plans after that point. Another source told WDSU that the Baby Cakes will make the announcement official Thursday. 

The Baby Cakes apparently have three years left on their lease at the Shrine on Airline in Metairie, the source confirmed. City and state officials are rumored to already be looking for another minor league team, likely a AA one. The team has not commented.

Wichita Mayor Jeff Longwell would only say that he is making an announcement about baseball in Wichita at 10:45 Thursday morning.

City council member James Clendenin says everyone is excited to hear what comes next.

“Not a whole lot I can say other than I’m excited about baseball. I think everybody is going to be optimistic and right now I have a sense that the future is whatever we make of it,” said Clendenin. “Really the future is a blank canvass for us. We have a lot of reason to be really positive about what’s getting ready to happen. I would just tell people to pay attention tomorrow to the Mayor’s news briefing.”

KSN.com contributor Bob Lutz and League 42 founder said Thursday’s announcement could be a game changer for the city.

“Tomorrow is going to be a historic day for sports fans in Wichita and the community as a whole,” Lutz said. “The news conference that they have will be a blue-ribbon affair.”

Lutz has been following sports in the Wichita area for several decades. He said he expects the announcement to include what team, what ownership group, a timeline for the new ballpark, what the ballpark may consist of and the potential for new development in the surrounding area.

“In my opinion, they (city leaders) know they need to do it right. They have to attract good crowds on a nightly basis and part of the way to do that is to offer the amenities that a new stadium can,” he said. “You need good skyboxes where corporations can bring clients. You need the comfortable seats. You need the concourse from which you can see the game or the activity that is going on on the field. You need top notch concessions. You need good entertainment. You need an organization that understands the value of providing more than just baseball.”

Lutz added an affiliated team could positively impact local businesses and the economy.

“People are going to want to go to that stadium. People are going to want to go to the bars, the restaurants, places that are around there,” Lutz said. “I would look for this to be one of many things to happen here in town over the next few years that’s going to excite the population.”

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