Are the Wichita Wingnuts Getting a New Home?

Are the Wichita Wingnuts Getting a New Home?American Association Daily provides insights and features on the American Association of Professional Baseball League, as well as player and coaching profiles and transactions going on with teams around the league. In today’s edition, with the closing of Lawrence-Dumont Stadium at the end of the 2018 season, we wonder if this means that the Wichita Wingnuts will have a new stadium for 2020.

Lawrence-Dumont Stadium Closing

The big news around the American Association on Thursday was that Lawrence-Dumont Stadium, home of the Wichita Wingnuts, is closing following the 2018 season. This has opened the door to a great deal of speculation, so a deep breath may be in order as we examine the implications of this.

What We Know

While not all the details have been released or may have been figured out, there are some indictors involved that should give us some idea of what will happen with the Wichita Wingnuts in the future. So, a little recap would help in the speculation.

In June, 2017, the City of Wichita gained approval for a bond to build a new ballpark at the site of Lawrence-Dumont Stadium. This project is part of an overall plan to renovate the whole area around the park, to include adding shops, hotels, and much more. For people who have been to the stadium, there is an amazing Baptist church that is visible looking out past the left-center field wall. That church will be torn down and the land will be used as part of this project.

Are the Wichita Wingnuts Getting a New Home?After the stadium bond was approved, it seemed that the Wingnuts were going to be the new residents of the ballpark but, somewhere along the way, Wichita Mayor Jeff Longwell made it clear that the only way that a new ballpark was going to be built was if the city could lure an affiliate team to Wichita.

In August of 2017, it was revealed that the San Antonio Missions had considered moving to Wichita but, instead, opted to move to Amarillo. This did not deter the city from seeking another team for their new $40-plus million ballpark.

Later that month, Mayor Longwell explained that the city was in negotiations with an affiliate club and that it would be likely that a team would be relocating to Wichita. By December, Longwell issued a statement where he explained that a deal to bring a team to the city appeared imminent. He did not want to reveal who the team was, out of fear that it could hamper negotiations, but by the MLB Winter Meetings, which were held a week later, an announcement could be made.

No announcement came in December, but the Mayor assured the city council and the people of Wichita that a deal should be in place sometime in January. Then it was February and finally March. No deal ever materialized.

Two sources in minor league baseball confirmed that the New Orleans Baby Cakes, the AAA-team of the Miami Marlins, was in discussions with the city about a potential move to Wichita. However, it appears that this was a move by the team to get some renovations to the stadium they call home, which were approved.

What the Stadium Closing Tells Us

When the Wichita Wingnuts announced that Lawrence-Dumont Stadium was closing, only two things were revealed. First, the stadium will close by the end of this season. Secondly, the team announced that they would be playing baseball beyond 2018. So, how does a team play with no stadium?

When the stadium was first approved in June of last year, the Wingnuts owners were already 10 steps ahead of what to do with the team while a stadium was built. There was no doubt that the new stadium was going to be built on the site of the old one. It is the perfect location, something you can’t deny if you have been there.

Both Nate Robertson and Steve Ruud graduated from Wichita State University, which has an incredible park and is available most of the summer. It did not take much for the two alumni to get the school to agree to let the Wingnuts play there for a season, and that deal was in place almost right away. So, there is no worries about the Wingnuts having a home for 2019.

Bring on the Speculation

So, do the Wichita Wingnuts have a new home for 2020? It is important to note that the city has not issued a statement that a new ballpark would be built, but they did issue one that gives the impression that there will be a new ballpark and the Wingnuts will be that tenant.

The statement said, in part, that “after consulting with the Wingnuts, it is agreed that renovating Lawrence-Dumont Stadium would not be cost effective.”

That the city discussed the issue with the Wingnuts tells you something right away. The City of Wichita knows who their tenant is going to be and so they consulted with them to get their thoughts before deciding on the next course of action.

It seems that both sides have agreed that a new stadium is the only way to go and that the 84-year-old park must be replaced. Any attempts to renovate Lawrence-Dumont Stadium are useless.

It is also important to ask why the Wingnuts would be willing to extend the team for a season, move them to WSU, only to fold the next year. This team will take the field in 2019 because they know they will have that new ballpark in 2020.

It is true that this is speculation, but it is also based upon a lot of time around the owners and management of the team. These are smart businessmen who love their community. They want to keep the Wingnuts alive, but are not doing so simply out of loyalty. That the city has consulted them about what to do with Lawrence-Dumont Stadium is a good indicator that something is in the works.

Also, consider one other little tidbit. Who was it that broke the news that Lawrence-Dumont Stadium was closing after 2018? It wasn’t the city, nor was it the local press. It was the Wichita Wingnuts. Why were they first to know and the ones to release the news? Just ponder that one for a minute.

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American Association Daily Notes

The Wichita Wingnuts made a number of moves over the last three days. On Tuesday the team announced the release of C Brent Dean, IF Luis Jimenez, and RHPs Josh Lang and Kevin Hilton. On Wednesday, they announced that RHP Seth Harvey had re-signed with the team. Harvey has been with the Wingnuts the last two seasons, beginning last year as the team’s closer before moving to the setup role. The right-hander has appeared in 61 total games the last two seasons, and is a combined 4-4 with 11 saves. Wichita also acquired IF Tony Thomas from the Chicago Dogs. Thomas was a fan favorite with the St. Paul Saints the last two seasons, hitting a career high 18 homers in 2017, finishing with a .287 average, 52 runs scored, and 54 RBI in 88 games. Thomas can play all over the infield and all three outfield positions…The Gary Southshore RailCats announced that IF Ryan Fitzgerald had his contract purchased by the Boston Red Sox…The Winnipeg Goldeyes announced that LHP Zack Dodson had his contract purchased by Monterrey (Mexican League) and that they had signed RHP Brandon Bingel. Bingel has been with Low-A West Virginia (Pittsburgh Pirates) the last two seasons. He was 0-2 with a 4.88 ERA in 17 appearances in 2017…The Cleburne Railroaders added RHP Jared Mortensen. Mortensen split time between AAA-Fresno (Houston Astros), the Kansas City T-Bones and the Texas AirHogs. Mortensen was devastating in his time in Texas, going 8-1 with a 3.21 ERA in 15 appearances, 10 of which were starts. He should move right behind ace Patrick Mincey in this rotation.

By Robert Pannier
Member of the IBWAA

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