It was interesting today as we had Wichita city council member Jeff Longwell, Wichita Wingnuts majority owner Steve Ruud and Wingnuts/National Baseball Congress general manager Josh Robertson joined us on Sports Daily.
We talked about the future of baseball in Wichita and what might become of Lawrence-Dumont Stadium. It was an interesting discussion that lasted an hour, from 10 a.m. until 11. And we’re going to bring back these folks and others for future baseball roundtables.
Before the return of affiliated baseball to Wichita can be discussed – the Wingnuts are an independent organization, owned and operated by Ruud and his partners – there has to be a decision about the future of L-D Stadium.
It’s a Wichita landmark, one of the most important and historical facilities this city has. But it’s rundown and deteriorating at a rapid pace. I believe a decision must soon be made to either tear down the facility and build a brand new ballpark or replace the grandstand area with a newer, more fan-friendly park.
Everyone on the panel today was in agreement that Lawrence-Dumont’s days are numbered. And that’s encouraging. The issue is, of course, how to play for a new baseball stadium or what that is renovated on a large scale. We’re talking millions of dollars, maybe as many as $50 million.
Details of financing are murky, of course. Especially since there has not been any official decision on how to move forward with talks of a new or renovated L-D Stadium. What we talked about today were idealistic notions of baseball in Wichita.
I was surprised during our conversation when Longwell, during our on-air conversation, offered me a post on the soon-to-be-formed board of directors for the National Baseball Congress World Series and to lead a charge to find public and private support for a new or renovated baseball stadium.
My role as a journalist won’t allow those things to happen, but I was flattered. And I think he was serious. I think.
I am passionate about both the NBC and this city’s need for a quality baseball stadium. Preferably, that stadium would stand in the same place Lawrence-Dumont stands now. It’s in a perfect place with a picturesque view of downtown Wichita over the right- and center-field walls. And, closing in on 80 years of age, it’s a hallowed place for many Wichitans. So yes, by all means, let’s keep the baseball stadium in that spot.
The roundtable participants today floated several interesting ideas, many of which concerned what could be done to accentuate the baseball stadium. Longwell mentioned a restaurant at the ballpark that was open year around. Robertson talked about several amenities, including team clubhouses behind the dugouts and turning the current clubhouses beyond the left-field fence into an indoor training facility with a weight room.
The imagination runs wild when it comes to ways Lawrence-Dumont could be improved and modernized. And with some development happening on the west bank of the Arkansas River, the stadium could be a center piece to all kinds of new activity.
Why not an ampitheater near the ballpark? Citizens and city leaders have long discussed the need for one in Wichita’s core area.
I’m thrilled that this discussion is happening. And I want to do what I can to make certain it continues. So, look for the baseball roundtable to become a regular feature on Sports Daily as we enter the fall and winter months. You can’t ever talk enough local baseball. Right?