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Wichita officials to release National Baseball Congress audit soon

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Wednesday, April 3, 2013, at 9:54 p.m.
  • Updated Sunday, Sep. 29, 2013, at 9:31 a.m.

City officials will publicly release their audit of the National Baseball Congress this month, potentially within the next week, City Manager Robert Layton said Wednesday.

Layton said the results of the city audit are now in the hands of Wichita Wingnuts officials for a response. The Wingnuts, headed by Josh Robertson, manage the 78-year-old city-owned baseball tournament held every August at Lawrence-Dumont Stadium.

“Once we get their response, I intend to share the audit with the mayor and council, which makes the audit a public document,” Layton said. “We stand to benefit because we’ll better understand their financial situation, and it should show us the way forward.”

Robertson did not return a call seeking comment.

Layton said the city began talks last week with Robertson about strengthening the 2013 NBC tournament. Council members have asked Layton to come up with a plan for this summer, along with a longer-term plan to solidify the tournament’s future.

“We’re going to talk over their operational issues,” he said. “That should give us an idea of where we’re going.”

City officials opened the audit in November amid concerns that the tournament has been habitually delinquent in paying its participating teams and vendors. Several council members have voiced concern about the tournament’s future, with popular and familiar teams from Alaska, Iowa and other states staying home as travel costs have mushroomed beyond the tournament’s small prize purse.

The tournament’s total purse of $60,000 hasn’t changed for a decade, and the $18,000 prize for first place doesn’t cover expenses for any team that spends all or most of the two-week tournament in Wichita. In addition, the audit has shown that city organizations, such as its sports commission and tourism operation, have not been used to help teams mitigate the costs of their Wichita stay.

Meanwhile, other major national summer college leagues aren’t taking part in the tournament, essentially reducing the field to a regional affair with declining interest, city officials said. Almost half the 2012 field was made up of Kansas teams.

However, Layton and council members have been clear: The city intends to retain the tournament in Wichita and is prepared to take steps this spring and early summer to strengthen it, potentially including some marketing, corporate sponsorship and format changes.

The city acquired the summer tournament in 2007 from owners Bob and Mindy Rich.

Reach Bill Wilson at 316-268-6290 or bwilson@wichitaeagle.com.

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