Wichita Mayor Jeff Longwell announced that the New Orleans Baby Cakes (Class AAA; Pacific Coast League) will move into a new ballpark in his city in 2020, with a Southern League team expected to move to New Orleans at the same time.
The potential move of the Baby Cakes has been an open secret in baseball circles for months, as we’ve been reporting that a Pacific Coast League team was involved in Wichita negotiations. Wichita has lacked affiliated baseball since the departure of the Wichita Wranglers (Class AA; Texas League) to Northwest Arkansas for the 2008 season. Since then, Lawrence-Dumont Stadium has housed the Wichita Wingnuts (independent; American Association), which were notified by city officials earlier this year that the ballpark would be torn down at the end of this season. While historic (Lawrence-Dumont Stadium was a WPA project opening in 1934 and upgraded several times since), the ballpark was clearly not to affiliated-baseball standards, and so city officials were faced with the choice between patching up the old ballpark or building fresh.
They opted for building fresh, and in the process attracted the attention of Baby Cakes ownership. Under the plan that has been pitched by Longwell and other officials, Lawrence-Dumont Stadium would make way for a new ballpark that is constructed as part of a larger development effort, backed by the Kansas equivalent of tax-increment financing (STAR bond).
The move of a as-of-yet-unanounced Class AA Southern League team would come under the ownership of the current New Orleans ownership, led by Lou Schwechheimer, allowing the Baby Cakes name to live on. (Yeah, the Wichita Baby Cakes makes no sense whatsoever.) In many ways, the move of the teams could lead to revitalizations for both. The Baby Cakes have not been a major draw in Metairie, as the Shrine on Airline has been showing its age, with a design that is far from state-of-the-art in Minor League Baseball. Still, New Orleans is a major market, so we’re expecting the Baby Cakes ownership to pitch a ballpark renovation that would downsize the facility and add the amenities — plenty of small gathering spots, drink rails and group spaces — fans expect. (An expiring lease in 2020 gives the team some leverage.) The Baby Cakes branding, which was an instant merch success on unveiling, would live on, and the Triple-A team in Wichita could make an immediate impact with a new branding drive. Big moves for Lou Schwechheimer and crew.
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