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Wichita Mayor: We Could’ve Disclosed Ballpark Development Deal Sooner

New Wichita Ballpark Design

After its handling of a proposal to sell land surrounding a new Wichita ballpark received criticism, mayor Jeff Longwell says the city should have been more upfront about the plan. 

Set to open in 2020 for the relocating New Orleans Baby Cakes (Class AAA; Pacific Coast League), the new Wichita ballpark is envisioned as an anchor for future mixed-use development on surrounding land. Under a recently announced proposal intended to facilitate the development, the city would sell 4.5 of 24 acres of surrounding land at $1 an acre to the group Wichita Riverfront LP. The group, which features a contingent that includes Baby Cakes franchise owners–led by Managing General Partner Lou Schwechheimer–plus additional investors, would in turn develop the land as part of an agreement that calls for completing 65,000 square feet of commercial space by 2025.

Since that deal was announced, it has received some criticism, including skepticism over the terms of the agreement and questions about whether the city kept the terms under wraps for too long before making them public. Longwell addressed some of those criticisms last Thursday, defending the terms of the proposal but also admitting that–in hindsight–the city should have provided more notice about the plan. More from the Wichita Eagle:

“Even though we couldn’t share the initial details of the private development agreement, . . . we could have been more transparent, at the very least announced that a deal was forthcoming,” Longwell said.

That seemingly contradicts Longwell’s statement earlier this week that the development deal wasn’t made public sooner because of Minor League Baseball rules, citing a letter he had received from the commissioner.

Longwell said the city approved an agreement between Wichita, the team’s owners, MiLB and the Pacific Coast League in December.

As part of those negotiations, city officials agreed to sign a nondisclosure agreement, Longwell said.

The city council was to have voted on the proposed development agreement last week, but postponed its decision. The vote is now slated to take place next week on March 19.

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