City of Wichita will pay $50,000 to consulting firm to find baseball team

Deanne Liska captured this shot of the Wichita skyline from Lawrence Dumont Stadium.

WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – What does it take to get a minor league baseball team affiliated with Major League Baseball in Wichita?

Up to and including $50,000.

The city has approved spending the money to pay a consulting group to find a minor league team to come to Wichita.

“I think we have a great opportunity right now to bring something to our city that we don’t have right now,” says James Clendenin, a Wichita City Council member. “When you make improvements to a city, when you make your city inviting, whether it’s for millenials, gen-xers like myself or baby boomers, it’s important to gauge and make sure we are making improvements that are appealing to a cross-section of people. But we definitely want to make sure we are keeping our youth here, that we keep our young talent in town and that they don’t move away.”

The city is looking for a minor league baseball team, affiliated with Major League Baseball, as part of rejuvenation to the downtown area west of the river.

Part of that rejuvenation includes a new baseball park that will be a mixed-use facility to include soccer fields.

And part of the deal to build a new stadium, includes bringing in an affiliated team.

The Wingnuts have played at Lawrence-Dumont stadium for years. But that’s about to change.

Josh Robertson, President of the Wingnuts, says they are considering options for the team, because the Wingnuts are not affiliated with Major League Baseball.The Wingnuts are independent.

“Wingnuts baseball is a good brand of baseball,” said Robertson. “We’ve been consistent. We’ve won 8 division titles in ten years. In a perfect world, Wingnuts are here. We’ve got a new stadium (coming by 2020) and new stadium could be a great anchor point for this whole development downtown. It’s time. It’s time for a new stadium. This is an 83-year-old ballpark, and it wasn’t built for entertainment, it was built for baseball. I’m sure there’s a lot of options… if we move the team. But the Wingnuts and an affiliated club could not co-exist in this city. There is no chance for that.”

Robertson says it’s not been decided what comes next for the Wingnuts. But, with the city approving $50,000 to find a minor league team affiliated with Major League Baseball, some city leaders say they appreciate what the Wingnuts have meant to the community.

“Very, very happy with the Wingnuts and all they have meant to this city,” said Mayor Jeff Longwell in a phone conversation on Tuesday.

Clendenin echoed that thought.

“The Wichita Wingnuts have been a tremendous asset to our community,” said Clendenin. “And the owners have put a good product on the field and there are are lot of fans to the Wingnuts. Where it goes from here it will definitely take some discussions with the owners. But I just think it needs to be said they have been a valuable asset to our city and we’re very appreciative of the quality of life that they brought here.”

The Beacon Sports Capital Consulting LLC will work in the 2017-18 year to talk to teams that could consider moving to Wichita.

The city is using Sales Tax and revenue called STAR bonds, and a Tax Increment Finance called a TIF district to pay for the overall revitalization project that’s expected to cost around $65 million.

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