With a ballpark design now in place, the next step in new Wichita ballpark planning: Development surrounding the facility, as the team owners map out their economic blueprint.
The new Wichita ballpark for the relocating New Orleans Baby Cakes (Class AAA; Pacific Coast League) is being planned as more than just a baseball facility: the city has pitched and funded the project as an economic-development tool. So the partnership with the franchise owners, led by Managing General Partner Lou Schwechheimer, now moves onto the next phase of the project. That means buying 23 acres from the city at a discounted rate: $1 an acre, including 3.5 acres of riverfront property.
While selling land for $24 that’s probably worth closer to $900,000 will certainly cause some feedback for city officials, there is a strategy here: by selling the land, it will jump-start development at the ballpark site, thus generating revenue sooner and covering the costs of the ballpark and the land sale. The entity slated to develop the land, Wichita Riverfront LP, will include the team ownership but will also bring in local investors as well.
The city is also positioning the deal as a no-risk investment, with Wichita Riverfront LP committed to completing 65,000 square feet of commercial space by 2025, including a first round of retail/entertainment development scheduled for 2021. And if the development doesn’t happen, the city will have the power to buy back the land. From the Wichita Eagle:
Schwechheimer, the baseball team’s owner and ballpark area developer, said several things made his ball team choose Wichita, including how welcoming the community has been and the mayor’s enthusiasm. The potential for development around the stadium was a definite draw….
Schwechheimer said he “absolutely” plans to hit every deadline in the agreement. One way he will do that is by working with local developers and community leaders who have approached him about buying into the team, he said.
“We have quietly met over the last several months with a number of very passionate and prominent business and civic leaders in Wichita who want to do the right thing for the community — our community,” he said.
The new ballpark is slated to open for the 2020 season.
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