We end 2018 with a countdown of the 10 biggest stories of the year on Ballpark Digest, as chosen by editors and partially based on page views. Today, #8: Wichita announces a new ballpark for the relocating New Orleans Baby Cakes.
After a few years of discussion about a new ballpark, Wichita, KS officials took a major step forward in 2018 by announcing plans to facilitate the return of affiliated Minor League Baseball. The result will be the relocation of the New Orleans Baby Cakes (Class AAA; Pacific Coast League), with the team shifting to Wichita in 2020 to open a new ballpark on a site with plenty of baseball history.
Wichita lost its most recent affiliated MiLB team–the Wichita Wranglers (Class AA; Texas League)–when it relocated to Northwest Arkansas after the 2007 season. In the absence of MiLB action, Lawrence-Dumont Stadium remained the site of the annual National Baseball Congress World Series while becoming home to the Wichita Wingnuts (independent; American Association) in 2008. That remained the status quo for some time, but city officials took a few steps in 2016 to plan a new ballpark on the Lawrence-Dumont Stadium site that would be built for an affiliated team.
That made Wichita the subject of intrigue throughout 2017, but plans for a late-year announcement of a new team and ballpark did not come to fruition. In May of this year, the Wingnuts announced that 2018 would be their final season at Lawrence-Dumont Stadium, giving an indication that the city could be on the verge of demolishing the ballpark. The plans became more realized in September, when the city and Baby Cakes ownership announced a new ballpark on the Lawrence-Dumont Stadium site opening in 2020.
Heading into the new year, construction on the new ballpark will be an area to watch. Wichita officials voted last week to finalize the design-build team for the project, consisting of JE Dunn Construction, DLR Group, EBY Construction, Schaefer Johnson Cox Frey Architecture and Professional Engineering Consultants.
The ballpark will offer a total capacity approaching 10,000, with a fixed seating capacity around 6,000. Social and group spaces, as well as club and suite areas, will fill out the total capacity. Furthermore, the ballpark is expected to anchor a larger redevelopment initiative, while being designed to host events on a year-round basis.
There is still plenty of work to be done to complete the ballpark by Opening Day 2020. However, Wichita officials saw their plans to bring affiliated baseball back to the city make significant strides this year, and can now look forward a new team and ballpark.
Here’s our Top Ten of 2018 to date: