In a move intended to make the area more walkable, the Wichita City Council has voted to narrow a boulevard where it will pass the upcoming Wichita ballpark.
Scheduled to open in 2020 as the new home of the relocating New Orleans Baby Cakes (Class AAA; Pacific Coast League), the new Wichita ballpark is being built at the former site of Lawrence-Dumont Stadium–albeit on a slightly different footprint. For Wichita officials, the hope is that the $75 million facility will anchor new development in the surrounding area, thereby creating a destination that generates plenty of foot traffic on a year-round basis.
As part of the effort to ease pedestrian access to the site, the Wichita City Council has voted to approve the narrowing of McLean Boulevard where it will pass the new ballpark. The plan–which will lead to the four-lane street being reduced to two lanes–is one of several that Wichita officials have been considering as part of an initiative to make the area surrounding the ballpark more walkable. More from the Wichita Eagle:
“It will be reduced to one lane in either direction” between Maple and Douglas, with the intent “to make it more pedestrian friendly,” said Paul Gunzelman, the assistant city engineer who presented the plan to the council.
The overall plan for the stadium district includes a new walking bridge over the Arkansas River and commercial development along the west bank.
“Walkability” has been the watchword, as close-in parking will be far more scarce that it was at the now-demolished Lawrence-Dumont Stadium.
City Council members and Mayor Jeff Longwell have signaled for months that a narrowing of McLean would be in the works and Tuesday’s vote formalized that.
Construction on the ballpark is underway, with a goal of opening it in time for the 2020 season. When the franchise debuts the new ballpark, it will mark the first time that Wichita has an affiliated Minor League Baseball team of its own since the Wichita Wranglers (Class AA; Texas League) relocated to Springdale, AR after the 2007 season to become the Northwest Arkansas Naturals.
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