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Nonprofit NBC Baseball Foundation takes over tournament

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Tuesday, May 20, 2014, at 4:07 p.m.
  • Updated Tuesday, July 8, 2014, at 7:23 a.m.

The NBC Baseball Foundation, a nonprofit formed by the city of Wichita, is the new owner of the National Baseball Congress World Series.

City Council members on Tuesday approved the transfer of the city-owned tournament and its assets to the foundation, which was formed Sept. 11.

Next up is the appointment on June 3 of a nine-member foundation board, to include expertise in baseball, marketing and finance. Included will be two council members, to be appointed by Mayor Carl Brewer.

The council also approved a contract with a law firm to represent the foundation, Bever Dye of Wichita.

Council member Pete Meitzner, who has been a big proponent of the tournament’s move to nonprofit status, praised the shift in ownership.

“It will be a little scary at first for the board, and probably for us,” he said, chuckling.

In response to a question, City Manager Robert Layton pledged city staff support to the new board during the transition — after first wryly observing to laughter, “Nope. They’re on their own.”

City officials value the tournament at $1 million — the price paid by the city in 1997 to buy it from Wichita Wranglers owners Bob and Mindy Rich. However, the tournament changed hands Tuesday with limited assets —between $16,000 and $18,000, according to city documents.

Those same documents also note that any liabilities at the time of the transfer are the responsibility of the tournament’s former operators, WB LLC, the owners of the Wichita Wingnuts. An audit of past tournament operations has not been completed, the documents indicate.

This year’s World Series will likely be operated by the Wingnuts on a temporary deal, before reverting to the foundation for 2015.

Financial problems, late payments to vendors and dwindling attendance led the city to launch an internal review of the tournament in fall 2012.

This year will mark the 80th anniversary of the tournament, which began in 1935 with Satchel Paige as the main attraction. This year’s NBC World Series runs from July 25 through Aug. 9. The Seattle Studs are the defending champions.

City officials incorporated the foundation last fall and expect Internal Revenue Service certification as a nonprofit this fall. City attorneys think the tournament already is legally a nonprofit.

That’s important for potential sponsors this summer, who can deduct any sponsorship money from their taxes.

In addition, the city is looking for larger-scale sponsors to help offset television production costs as it tries to lure a national cable network to televise part of the tournament.

Any profits eventually generated by the tournament will go toward youth baseball programs, with the foundation board having the final say over the distribution of that money.

Reach Bill Wilson at 316-268-6290 or bwilson@wichitaeagle.com. Follow him on Twitter: @bwilsoneagle.

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