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City OKs bond district to replace Lawrence-Dumont Stadium

A sales tax bond district to fund about half the projected cost of replacing Lawrence-Dumont Stadium with a new and more modern ball park has been approved by the Wichita City Council.

Council members approved a STAR bond district on a 7-0 vote without debate or discussion Tuesday. Although they held a required public hearing, no one spoke in favor or against the plan.

The goal is to replace the 82-year-old Lawrence-Dumont with a modern baseball park that could also double as a soccer stadium.

STAR bonds are expected to pay about half of the expected $40 million cost. City officials hope that will be enough to build a new stadium, although a major renovation keeping parts of the current stadium could be an alternative.

Bob Hanson, head of the Wichita Sports Commission, said after the vote that he wants to see baseball generate the kind of excitement and commerce the city will see next year when the NCAA basketball tournament comes to Intrust Bank Arena.

“Just with the new NCAA events coming to town, you can see what you do when you get facilities,” he said. “They have a huge impact on the community.

“A new baseball stadium and whatever we can put together with that would be tremendous. There’s lots of opportunity.”

The stadium is envisioned as the anchor of major commercial development west of the Arkansas River downtown.

The plan is to build a restaurant, bar and entertainment area between the stadium to the south and the library to the north.

City officials hope to replace the Wingnuts, the current baseball tenant at Lawrence-Dumont, with a higher-level minor-league baseball team affiliated with a Major League Baseball franchise.

The city hasn’t had an MLB farm team since 2007, when the Wichita Wranglers moved to a newly built $50 million stadium in Springdale, Ark.

The STAR bond district encompasses the current stadium site and the neighboring Ice Center. It swings north along the river to the site of the new Advanced Learning Library being built at Second and Sycamore.

STAR bonds are a financial mechanism in which the city borrows money for public improvements and pays it back from increased sales taxes generated by the increased commerce.

Probably the most visible use of STAR bonds in the state is the Kansas Speedway, the Sporting KC soccer stadium and surrounding commercial development in Kansas City, Kan.

The bond plan must be approved by the state Department of Commerce.

See article here: http://www.kansas.com/news/politics-government/article148044269.html

NBC makes payment to City of Wichita, New Stadium in the Future

WICHITA, Kan. (KAKE) –

Like a baseball manager getting ejected by an umpire, so the city of Wichita is ready to eject Lawrence-Dumont Stadium.

“What we recognize now is there’s really nothing to save over there,” said Mayor Jeff Longwell.  He said the stadium’s infrastructure is in bad shape including the plumbing.  He says the stadium concrete is crumbling.  He wants to have a ground breaking next year.

Lawrence-Dumont was a “Works Projects Administration” project during the great depression, opening in 1934.

Longwell said, “We are in the process of putting together all of the finance packages needed to build a new Lawrence Dumont Stadium,” Longwell said.

He said Star Bonds will be used in the financing.  He said the next step is to hire an architect to move forward with plans.

NBC World Series makes impact, repays on city loan

Longwell said the city wants to build a National Baseball Congress museum to be open year-round and include a restaurant.

Longwell indicated the probability of not having professional baseball for a season.

“We don’t know yet if we’re going to lose a season in 2018 or 2019,” he said. “So we don’t have that schedule laid out for us just yet, in terms of, do we lose a baseball season?”

That’s while a stadium is under construction.

But as for the National Baseball Congress games Longwell said, “What we would do is move the NBC to another facility.  And so we would not lose a season for the NBC.   We may have to move them to another venue for one year.”

He said the most logical place for the NBC tournament games to be played is on the Wichita State University campus in Eck Stadium, while a new Lawrence-Dumont Stadium is being built.

City Council Member and NBC Board Member Lavonta Williams said, “We are looking forward to being in a new stadium.  But the thing we’ll have to look at is where we can temporarily play and right now Wichita State is a great avenue for us to look at.”

A new stadium could lead to an affiliation with a major league baseball team said Longwell.

“We believe there are multiple opportunities and we’ve already talked to multiple teams. We are just in the beginning stages of those conversations also. It’s exciting.  It’s great to see baseball at a level we haven’t been accustomed to in a while.”

 

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