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Wichita Approves Ballpark Spending — But Downplays MiLB

Wichita WingnutsThe Wichita City Council approved $12.5 million in spending for either Lawrence-Dumont Stadium renovations or a new facility, but this time the emphasis was creating a multiuser facility for baseball, soccer and concerts — with little talk about Minor League Baseball.

Wichita had created some buzz in the baseball world with a plan to replace Lawrence-Dumont Stadium, current home of the Wichita Wingnuts (independent; American Association), with a new facility meeting MiLB specs in hopes of landing a Double-A or Triple-A team. The potential of that happened diminished greatly when it was announced the Colorado Springs Sky Sox (Class AAA; Pacific Coast League) was moving to San Antonio in 2019, with the San Antonio Missions (Class AA; Texas League) moving to Amarillo that same year. With no other Texas League or Pacific Coast League teams available for move and no other MiLB leagues operating in the area, it would seem the city would be limited to American Association ball and the National Baseball Congress. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that: we’ve seen that independent baseball can be quite a good investment, as both CHS Field and Shaw Park have been part of area revitalizations in St. Paul and Winnipeg, respectively.)

So the potential ballpark changes are now being sold as creating a multiuser venue that would bring more people to the area and drive more investment as well. And, with only $12.5 million of a proposed $29 million on the project actually devoted to the ballpark (the rest is dedicated to area improvements like parking, street improvements and a new greenway/bike path), it would seem that for now the emphasis on MiLB has been dialed down. From

The stadium renovation is intended “to create activity year-round in that stadium not just focused on baseball games,” said city analyst Mark Elder.

Mayor Jeff Longwell said he was “excited about the opportunity to see investment come to the core of the city.”

He said he expects the project to increase activity around and in the Arkansas River, including bike and boat rentals and other activities.

“I think it’s exciting for all of Wichita,” Longwell said.

The city is still looking at another $40 million in STAR bonds for the project, to be backed with increased sales taxes generated by the project. But for now, the emphasis is on an improved and multiuse Lawrence-Dumont Stadium.

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