The sun is setting on the Wichita Wingnuts’ 2018 season and their last few games in Lawrence-Dumont Stadium as the future of the team and the stadium hang in balance.
The city of Wichita owns the stadium, and there’s been talks of bringing in a minor league affiliated team, but nothing has been decided yet.
The first 1,000 fans inside Tuesday night’s game got a replica of the historic stadium.
“It’s a Wichita icon that I hope will be around longer than we will. It will stay if they don’t tear it down,” Jim Spiess of Wichita said.
Spiess was one of five people in line outside Lawrence-Dumont’s main gate over an hour and a half before gates opened. He reminisced about when his daughter was a bat boy and when he stayed with boy scouts to camp around the clock for the NBC World Series.
Lynn Huffstetler, behind Spiess in line, said he umpired games at the NBC tournament and played at Lawrence-Dumont before.
“We’ve talked to all the people here in line, and there’s a general consensus that they shouldn’t tear it down. Let’s put a lot of money into it and make it nice, but don’t tear it down…so we’re here to get a replica,” Huffstetler said.
Brad Russell stood in line with his son Tyler to get a replica stadium for his friend in Albuquerque, who has been coming to the NBC tournament for 15 years.
“Do the right thing, just try and build something here that we can all be proud of,” Russell said.
Season ticket-holder Monta “Gunner” Plank is a Vietnam veteran and says he is a consistent fan in section GG. He knows the diamond dolls and staff by name and jokes with them all.
“I came here five years ago as a season ticket holder and I finally found something older than I am. It’s (Lawrence-Dumont Stadium) 84 years old, I’m 82 so I had to come to all the games I could,” Plank said.
Plank plans to follow the Wingnuts if they begin play at Eck Stadium on Wichita State’s campus.
Behind Plank in line at the season ticket-holder gate is Paul Lytle and his wife. Lytle turns 60 this weekend and has been a season ticket-holder for 30 years. He remembers his first game at Lawrence-Dumont Stadium on April 16, 1970: opening night for the Wichita aeros.
“We sat behind the plate and it’s been a love affair for us and Wichita’s teams and this ballpark every since,” Lytle said.
Lytle recalls having a preference for games with dark skies when he was younger. Before tarps, the Aeros would have to call the game if it rained.
“You get a rain check and you could come to a double header the next day and see two games for the price of one,” Lytle said.
Lytle says he will be a devotee to any Wichita team, as he has with the Aeros, Wranglers and now the Wingnuts.
The future of Lawrence-Dumont Stadium has not been formally announced. The Wingnuts’ last regular season game is Monday, September 3.