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Kansas A to Z: ‘N’ is for NBC World Series

WICHITA — While Wichita’s history has been hit or miss when it comes to minor league baseball, there has been one constant through the years that continues to draw crowds.

Thanks to the ingenuity of one local sporting goods salesman, Raymond “Hap” Dumont, baseball fans have been able to look forward to watching highly competitive, semi-professional baseball in the late summer for nearly a century, with Dumont helping organize the first National Baseball Congress World Series (which will crown its 85th champion later this summer) in 1935.

Back when it started, the NBC World Series attracted many barnstorming and town teams, with Dumont able to rope in future Hall of Fame pitcher Satchel Paige for that first tournament. Now, the two-week championship series (starting the last week of July) features mainly collegiate and amateur teams from across the country, giving up-and-coming players a chance to shine in the spotlight — an opportunity not lost on them.

“It’s definitely one of the biggest stages I’ve been on,” said 2018 NBC World Series participant Jace Snodgrass, who played for the Newton Rebels. “For me at least, hearing the crowd and everything when you do anything cool is just awesome and puts a little more momentum on your side for sure. It’s just a great time all-around.”

For some of those collegiate/amateur players showcased in the NBC World Series, the tournament has proven to be a springboard into the pros — with the tournament having helped launch the careers of more than 800 Major League Baseball players. That includes the likes of current MLB superstars like Aaron Judge, Albert Pujols and Paul Goldschmidt, as well as those of years past — like Mark McGwire and Roger Clemens. The latter even put together a team of former MLB players to compete in the tournament a couple of years ago.

Having the chance to watch those future (and former) stars compete is reason enough to check out the NBC World Series, but there will be a new hook this year — as the tournament will be switching venues following the recent demolition of Lawrence-Dumont Stadium to make way for a new minor league ballpark.

Switching venues has made for one of the busiest off seasons so far, according to Tournament Director Kevin Jenks, but the tournament will not be moving to an unfamiliar site. Wichita State University’s Eck Stadium will host this year’s NBC World Series — after hosting some overflow games in the past — and organizers are looking forward to the potential that host site holds.

“It’s been a good transition and we’re excited about it. It’s a facility that just has better amenities for our players, our teams, our fans and our staff. To me, it’s one of the top five to 10 collegiate ballparks in the country,” Jenks said. “We look forward to playing there and the excitement of utilizing their amenities, that we didn’t have at Lawrence-Dumont, is a big plus for us.”

The history of Lawrence-Dumont Stadium will be heard to replace, according to Newton Rebels General Manager Mark Carvalho, but Eck Stadium is a logical alternative. No matter where it is held, he noted collegiate summer baseball — at that level — makes for a fun atmosphere.

With the host site in flux this year, Jenks admitted organizers have fielded a lot more questions than usual about the tournament. Tough as it is to have to leave the historic Lawrence-Dumont Stadium, Jenks noted the plan is to keep the tournament — one of the longest-running sporting events in the country — going strong in Wichita with hopes of attracting generations of fans to the NBC World Series for years to come.

“It’s our 85th year. Not many sporting events around the country can say that, and certainly to be able to call Wichita home since day one is important,” Jenks said. “From our research, we know that fans who come out one time or two times or three times, we typically have them hooked for life. It’s our job, it’s our duty to make sure they keep coming back, but it really has become a family tradition, I think, for a lot of our fans. That’s what’s really cool.”

“There is a lot of love out there for the NBC,” Jenks said. “When people look forward to your event on an annual basis and talk about it, whether it’s in December, January or here in April, that makes us all smile.”

Wichita Bids Adieu to Lawrence-Dumont Stadium

Wichita Bids Adieu to Lawrence-Dumont Stadium

The banging and clanging of metal tools striking against steel seats echoed throughout Lawrence-Dumont Stadium; the ping and pangs were loud enough to even disrupt the ghost of  Ray“Hap” Dumont, who convinced the City of Wichita to build the stadium to host his semi-amateur baseball in 1935. Many still claim that his presence can be felt since his death at his office in the building 46-years-ago.

On this day, fans were allowed to grab a piece of history or a slice of childhood memories with chair sale. The cash-only event allowed fans of Wichita baseball to purchase seats for as low as $5 for the red seats, $20 for the red/tan seats, and $35 for the blue seats. Fans were encouraged to dig into their toolboxes to be able to remove a seat, or even a row of four,  from its foundation on the main concourse.

A total of 250 seats were sold on Saturday according to Troy Houtman, Director of Parks and Recreation. The rest will be given donated to local universities, community colleges, and high schools in the area.  A few of the seats will be on display at various bus stops, art galleries, and trendy neighborhoods in town.

After the stadium purge of seats, the “Farewell to Lawrence-Dumont Stadium” began featuring a collection of food trucks, a celebrity softball game, movie screenings, and a firework show.  It was a proper send off to a facility that has been the catalyst of copious amounts of memories. Within a few weeks, it will be razed to make way for a new Triple-A ballpark that hopes to create a new tradition of its own beginning in the 2020 season

“Generations have come and gone with Lawrence-Dumont Stadium,” said Kevin Jenks, NBC General Manager/Tournament Director. “Members of the Lawrence and Dumont families attended and it’s hard for them. The NBC has a great relationship with both families. Charley Lawrence and Hap Dumont are responsible for the stadium being built in 1934. Its impact isn’t felt just by those families, LDS has contributed memories for thousands of fans and players over the years.”

The scoreboard will be donated to a local high school, it’s lighting possibly salvaged if it can’t find a new home, and other parts auctioned off to the highest bidder. All remnants of the stadium’s former tenant the Wichita Wingnuts were auctioned off a few weeks ago. Pretty soon there will be nothing but peanut shells that need to be swept up from the building’s main concourse.

The city will pay as much as $83 million for the redevelopment of the property that will also include a new pedestrian bridge that will cross the river, a three-tier building for retail and office space, and other infrastructure. The construction will begin in April of next year and when finish has a capacity for 10,000 fans with fixed seats and social areas.

The NBC will also utilize the stadium for one week during the summer for its amateur World Series while the yet-t0-be-named Triple-A ballclub, currently operating in New Orleans, is on the road. The new stadium will also be home to an NBC museum and office space. Next season, NBC World Series will be held at Eck Stadium on the campus of Wichita State University during the construction.

“We’re excited to play at Eck Stadium”,  added Jenks who said that more teams have inquired about participating next season in the tournament. “Its amenities are great for our fans and our teams will like the pre-game prep/practice area much more. The only challenge is going through the “get ready” process of moving a new facility for the first time in 85 years. The operations staff at WSU has been professional and accommodating to our unique needs of a two-week event.”

The city hopes to attract 888,400 visitors to the baseball facility that can also be used 10 days a year for charitable and community events. A ballpark village with an outfield entrance will be situated along the river with businesses hoping to fill in the south end of the stadium. Mayor Jeff Longwell said at the official announcement that Arkansas River has been vastly overlooked.

“We have literally turned our backs on this river for decades and decades and decades and now we are embracing the river as the great amenity it should be.”

The ballpark would be completed by March 15, 2020, while the team commits to a 20-year lease with an initial rent payment of $350,000 annually, before it is adjusted to inflation every five years.

It is indeed an end of an era in Wichita; the old ballpark was once serviceable as a home to minor league baseball, but wouldn’t be able to hack it anymore under its current conditions. Although full of nostalgia for many who remember their first time watching a game underneath its old grandstand, the city is due for a modern ballpark to satisfy the appetites and empty the pockets who now attend the game as more of a social event.

The over the eight-decade run of LDS is a strong testament to its stubbornness and unwillingness to cede to more modern ballparks, but at the dawn of the next decade, there will be a state of the art ballpark offering perhaps everything architects in the past have overlooked when designing similar facilities.

“It is a bittersweet situation,” added Houtman. The current Lawrence-Dumont Stadium is 84-years-old and it has so many memories to folks here in Wichita, but the infrastructure is so outdated and the mounting costs of repairs and upgrades have made it fiscally impossible to renovate or sustain in its current state.  It is my hope that the folks from Wichita will make many new memories and experience at the new stadium.”

That feeling is also shared by Jenks who knows that it was inevitable to build a new stadium for both a minor league team and amateur tournament.

“All that said, a new stadium is desperately needed. It should have happened 10-15 years ago. The next generation of NBC fans will grow up in a beautiful facility. Plus, the NBC museum will showcase our tradition, history, and nostalgia that so many people have helped build.”

In an age were many ballparks are being knocked down after less than 25 years, an 84-year-old ballpark is something to truly appreciate. However, it is time for a new ballpark that hopes to create as many memories as Lawrence-Dumont Stadium. If there was ever a city waiting for such a moment, it is definitely Wichita, Kansas.

by | Oct 19, 2018 |

 

Jenks Named NBC World Series General Manager

WICHITA, KS – The 81st National Baseball Congress World Series will be played next summer at
Lawrence-Dumont Stadium in Wichita with a familiar face in charge of the event. Kevin Jenks
has been named the general manager and tournament director of the National Baseball
Congress by the newly formed foundation’s board of directors.

Jenks, who was hired as a sales executive for the Wichita Wingnuts, also served as the 2014
director of the amateur tournament and was the operations manager in 2013. Jenks will step
away from his duties with the Wichita Wingnuts to become the first full?time general manager
and tournament director hired by the National Baseball Congress Foundation. He will report
directly to the board of directors.

“I’m humbled and honored for this wonderful opportunity with the NBC Foundation,” said
Jenks. “It’s motivating to see the passion our board has for the World Series and I look forward
to carrying out their mission and vision.”

A graduate of Garden Plain High School, Jenks played college baseball at Dodge City Community
College. He graduated with a BA in Communications from Fort Hays State University in 1995,
and spent 12 years working in television broadcasting as a sports photographer, reporter and
anchor. He spent another five years in corporate recruiting, sales, marketing and business
development before joining the Wingnuts organization in 2013.

“I have worked with Kevin the past two years and the Board met with dozens of NBC officials,
managers, players, scouts, sponsors and fans this past summer at the tournament,” said
chairman of the board, Steve Shaad. “It was clear Kevin was respected by all. We feel he is the
key to making the NBC World Series as successful as possible and restoring its reputation as the
best summer amateur baseball tournament in the world.”

For more information about the 81st Annual NBC World Series visit www.nbcbaseball.com.

NBC Baseball Foundation Board of Directors

Mr. Steve Shaad, Chairman
Mr. Gaylord Dold, Secretary
Mr. Mike Gehrer, Vice Chairman
Mr. Greg Sevier, Treasurer
Mr. Terry Brewster
Mr. Bob Hanson
Mr. Vernell Jackson
Mr. Pete Meitzner, Wichita City Council
Mr. Dan Rogers
Mr. Jason Wenzel
Ms. Lavonta Williams, Wichita City Council

Vision

We at the NBC Baseball Foundation envision a proud future in which Hap Dumont’s original vision is
transmitted to and perpetuated for future generations, and enhanced through continued hard work and
dedication, so that our community, fans everywhere, amateur players, and lovers of the game, young
and old, will continue to benefit spiritually and physically by enjoying our national pastime.

Mission

Our mission at the NBC Baseball Foundation is to perpetuate, grow and popularize the National Baseball Congress annual tournament as the premier summer showcase in the nation for college-age amateur baseball players; to maximize the outreach, sanctioning, league activities, and effectiveness of the National Baseball Congress; to promote baseball in the Wichita, Kansas area; and to establish lasting partnerships, sponsorships and other cooperative pursuits.

Goals

  • The Foundation will solicit, establish, manage, and grow a substantial endowment.
  • The Foundation will pursue donor and sponsor partnerships to financially support its mission.
  • The Foundation will seek volunteer community partners to further its vision and mission.
  • The Foundation will create an executive staff of dedicated professionals.
  • The Foundation will optimize, oversee, and grow the National Baseball Congress as an amateur baseball sanctioning organization.
  • The Foundation, though its executive staff and volunteers, will independently and effectively operate a summer baseball tournament for college-age amateur baseball players under principles, policies and procedures established by the Board of Directors.
  • The Foundation will support youth baseball in the Wichita, Kansas area by distributing property to qualified local charities under conditions and rules established by the Foundation.
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