WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – Wichita is getting a new stadium to replace Lawrence-Dumont.
“It does everything that we need it to do, when we talk about keeping companies like Cargill here,” says Wichita Mayor Jeff Longwell. “It’s going to revolve around quality of life, when we talk about trying to do more with economic development, it’s going to revolve around quality of life.”
Cargill last year announced it was staying in Wichita. Amenities are needed, he says, to attract new business and add jobs.
Longwell says the city council voted, unanimously this month, to approve a finance deal that approaches $60 million. It will build a new facility to replace Lawrence-Dumont and it will include the ability for soccer to be played in the new venue.
Longwell says the race to attract millennials is not lost on city leaders.
“We often hear that they chose where they want to live before they have a job,” says Longwell. “And so we are creating that place that is appealing to that next generation. It’s a nice balance, I like the direction this city is going in. The river corridor is finally being embraced like it should and become the true asset for the city that should have developed a long time ago.”
Longwell says there is a consideration that could even move the baseball stadium right up to the river.
For businesses in nearby Delano, they say the new mixed-use sports stadium can’t come soon enough.
“People from all over the Wichita area love some Picasso’s,” says Efrain Ramirez, manager of Picasso’s pizza in Delano. “Because we’re Picasso’s, you gotta make it look cool, it’s gotta be artistic. You gotta put your flair on it.”
Ramirez says people come to Picasso’s for the pizza, and it’s a success. Recently, the store has doubled its seating. Picasso’s is only a couple of blocks from the baseball stadium.
“A new stadium? It’s definitely going to be great for us because a lot more people are going to be walking downtown and a lot more people are going to be trying to see what’s going on around there,” says Ramirez. “And usually it flows down to us because we are on the other side of the river and everybody comes to check things out.”
Longwell says the finance package is a done-deal. Star bonds will be sold by the city to pick up part of the tab. Star bonds will be sold by the city, in a mechanism that takes sales tax monies that would normally go to the state. Those sales tax monies would come to Wichita in the deal, where the city essentially is borrowing money based on future sales tax receipts.
Other pieces of the finance puzzle would come from a special so-called tax increment finance district.
Longwell says the stadium was a must-have for Wichita. The upgrade will include a foot-bridge on the river between Douglas and Maple, and new parking. It’s a plan to build for the future that will also include a Wichita baseball team that’s affiliated with major league baseball. The mayor says that’s guaranteed, as part of the contract to develop the new stadium.
Overall, the mayor says the plan to change Wichita’s image is on the right track, and the baseball stadium is a nice move in the right direction.
“So, it’s working. We are seeing people enjoy our parks, people enjoy our cultural arts community and all of the different amenities there,” says Longwell. “And now we’re going to have a world-class baseball stadium with the development around it that’s going to be very meaningful.”
They expect to begin moving dirt on a new stadium next year. They are in the process of getting ready to take bids for an architect to design the stadium.
It should be completed in or before 2019.