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Wichita Approves Scaled-Back Land Deal for Ballpark Development

New Wichita Ballpark Design 3

A scaled-back proposal to sell four acres of land for $4, to be used for ballpark development by a group that includes the owners of the relocating New Orleans Baby Cakes (Class AAA; Pacific Coast League), was approved yesterday by the Wichita City Council.

An original proposal to sell 24 acres at $1 per acres made national headlines when first revealed, as city officials defending the sale by saying it was key to landing the Baby Cakes for the 2020 season. Opponents say the land sale was shrouded in secrecy and should have been announced when the new ballpark funding plan was announced; Mayor Jeff Longwell says MiLB rules prohibited the announcement (in the end, they didn’t).

In the end, the proposal was scaled back first to 4.5 acres and then to 4 acres. Wichita Riverfront LP, which features a contingent that includes Baby Cakes franchise owners–led by Managing General Partner Lou Schwechheimer–plus additional investors, would complete the transaction with the city and in turn develop the land.

That revised proposal from the Wichita Riverfront LP was approved by yesterday by the Wichita City Council on a unanimous 7-0 vote. Other development proposals have popped up near the $83-million ballpark project, which may have made the discounted sale more palatable to city officials. Details of this additional development were discussed at the meeting. And development is a key to the ballpark financial plan, as it’s mainly funded by increased taxes generated from the project. From the Wichita Eagle:

Before anyone from the public spoke, Schwechheimer and Laham pitched for their visions of the stadium area development, vowing to work together to develop a “Baseball Village Master Plan.”

[George] Laham, whose group called Riverfront Partners is developing the area north of the ballpark, unveiled his vision for that parcel, saying the development could be “one of the most significant impacts on our city, in our downtown, for the next 50 years.”

McLean Boulevard along the river from Douglas to Maple would look like a street in Old Town: narrow, brick and “pedestrian friendly,” Laham said. It could be closed to traffic for events and on weekends.

Losing the half acre of land is leading to one notable change: no Ferris wheel at the ballpark.

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