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TLC in Lawrence-Dumont Stadium’s future?

wichitaWingnutsLogo_3It’s a venerable facility, but it’s a ballpark sorely need of repair. New Wichita Mayor Jeff Longwell says he’d like to see a renovation of Lawrence-Dumont Stadium as a quality-of-life investment — and maybe as a way to bring affiliated baseball back to town.

The Wichita Wingnuts (independent; American Association currently play out of Lawrence-Dumont Stadium, sharing the facility with the National Baseball Congress. The Wingnuts swooped in after the Wichita Wranglers (Class AA; Texas League) departed for Springdale and became the Northwest Arkansas Naturals. The city had let Lawrence-Dumont Stadium deteriorate during the final days of the Wranglers, with officials seemingly oblivious to the possibility that the Wranglers would leave town. There have been some upgrades in recent years, but the fact is that Lawrence-Dumont Stadium really does need a whole lotta love. From the Wichita Eagle:

Lawrence-Dumont, though, needs more. Restrooms are in disrepair, team clubhouses are outdated and sky boxes don’t attract the kind of corporate dollars they should because they’re old and there aren’t enough of them.

Longwell, Wichita’s mayor for just a few months, is also a big Lawrence-Dumont Stadium guy. And he sees the need for vast improvements to the old ballpark, which has been around in several forms since the mid-1930s. There are days when it smells like it – yes, L-D needs some new pipes, too.

“Everybody wants money and money is tight,” Longwell said. “My argument is that if we focus on quality of life, that’s going to set us apart.”

Renovations would also mean the city has another shot at affiliated baseball. Right now it seems like the chances of a Texas League return would be slim, as almost every team is successful and tied up with a long-term lease. Save one: the San Antonio Missions, and there’s been a public desire among city official to upgrade baseball there to the Triple-A level.

But that’s a long shot, especially with the sale of the New Orleans Zephyrs (Class AAA; Pacific Coast League) to a former Triple-A owner who seems intent on keeping the team in Metairie. That leaves one less team as a potential San Antonio tenant. It’s one thing to spend millions on a tenant that can generates the revenue a Triple-A team does; it’s another to spend millions on an indy team.

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