WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – A nearly packed house at Riverfront Stadium in Wichita Friday night brought in a crowd for a high school football match. Using the stadium for more non-baseball events was one way the stadium financing was sold to taxpayers.
Another piece of the puzzle was to “sell” Riverfront to taxpayers as development around the stadium that would include a new hotel along with new shops.
“Unfortunately, there were a lot of empty promises that were made,” said Wichita city council member Jeff Blubaugh.
Riverfront Stadium is in District 4 of the Wichita City Council district boundaries. Blubaugh represents that district.
“And now we’re asking the question again, when is construction going to start?” said Blubaugh on Friday. “I’m going to keep asking the questions, and the public needs to know when this development’s going to happen. This was all built up as a catalyst site.”
Blubaugh explains that state-issued STAR bonds were used for the site. And the Riverfront area has not moved along as promised.
There are several reasons for that, according to Blubaugh. This includes a different development group than the original baseball stadium group that brought a minor league team to town. After one group was sold several acres around the stadium for $1 an acre, there is another group now in charge of making the land used for development.
“But the development around Riverfront Stadium has been pretty slow going, and I’m anxious to hear more details or more announcements of permits being pulled or groundbreakings taking place,” said Blubaugh.
He is not alone in asking about more development in the area, including a possible hotel and more retail shops.
“I mean, more is always better. I’m happy with what we have now, but, yeah, I would definitely love more, too,” said Wichita area resident Brian Bergkamp on Friday.
Others say they love the new stadium but would like to see development.
“It’s new, it’s nice. There are lots of food options,” said Brandi Cook, who was going into Riverfront for the Friday night lights game. “Around the stadium, I think I would prefer to see more activities, though, rather than food.”
Blubaugh remains hopeful there will still be development.
“There’s been so many great things happening in Delano, but I don’t know that we can say the ballpark did it,” said Blubaugh. “And I just want to ensure that any additional commitments that are made to the public, we can depend on those commitments to be fulfilled.”