Wichita’s upcoming Pacific Coast League ballpark came into focus on Thursday, when officials gathered for the placing of a ceremonial home plate at the facility’s site.
Slated to open next season for the relocating New Orleans Baby Cakes (Class AAA; Pacific Coast League), the new $75 million Wichita ballpark will be built on the former site of Lawrence-Dumont Stadium–albeit on a slightly different footprint–and is expected to anchor a larger redevelopment initiative in the surrounding area. There is still a considerable amount of work to be done to finish the ballpark in time for the 2020 campaign, but anticipation of its completion was evident during a ceremony on Thursday that included city officials, Minor League Baseball president Pat O’Conner, and other executives from around baseball.
For Wichita, one of the points of significance for the upcoming ballpark is that it is luring the city its first affiliated MiLB team since the Wichita Wranglers (Class AA; Texas League) relocated to Springdale, AR after the 2007 season to become the Northwest Arkansas Naturals. O’Conner noted on Thursday how MiLB has evolved in the years since Wichita last fielded an affiliated team. More from the Wichita Eagle:
“Since the Wranglers left, I think the game at the minor league level has elevated,” he said. “It will be a different game, it will be a higher level of enthusiasm, a higher level of energy, a more sophisticated presentation.”
O’Conner was among about a dozen baseball bigwigs who traveled to Wichita to ceremonially place the home plate for Wichita’s new stadium, under construction at the northeast corner of Maple and Sycamore.
Branch Rickey, president of the Triple-A Pacific Coast League, said it marks a new era for Wichita baseball.
“Per se, setting a home plate is insignificant,” Rickey said. “But it’s symbolic in the respect that baseball has so many ways of reinventing itself and it’s emblematic of the way this sports embeds itself in communities, in people’s lives.”
The Wichita club will be an affiliate of the Miami Marlins, carrying over a player development contract that is currently in effect in New Orleans. The Baby Cakes franchise will rebrand to coincide with the move to Wichita.
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