Gaylord Dold said he remembers going to Wichita’s National Baseball Congress World Series in the 1950s and ’60s, during the tournament’s “glory days.”
“I came out here then, and it was a big deal,” he said. “I remember the place being packed.”
Lawrence-Dumont Stadium will be home to the 80th annual NBC World Series later this month, but this time with new management ready to take over.
The NBC Baseball Foundation – which met for the first time Monday – will eventually take over management of the tournament and try to reverse the event’s declining income and attendance. The city of Wichita, which owned the tournament, transferred ownership and the NBC’s assets to the nonprofit foundation in May.
The foundation board met Monday with City Council members and Wichita City Manager Robert Layton to discuss its mission and plans for the tournament.
“Let’s pack Dumont again for two weeks,” said Dold, a foundation board member.
This year’s tournament, scheduled for July 25 to Aug. 9, will bring about 30 teams from across the country and thousands of spectators to Wichita. For now, it will remain under management of the Wichita Wingnuts until the foundation gathers its bearings. The Wingnuts are the city’s minor-league baseball team.
In recent years, the tournament has struggled financially. Documents released Monday revealed the city lost more than $87,000 on last year’s tournament.
“You can see why … we’re done,” said Gary Austerman, an owner of the Wingnuts, which provides staff members and services to the NBC tournament. “We just don’t want to lose as much money as we’ve been losing.”
On Monday, many of the foundation board’s nine members expressed concerns about starting at “level zero” because the city will eventually serve only as a backdrop to the operation of the NBC World Series.
“I don’t see why the city can’t put in some funds,” board member Terry Brewster said during the meeting. “Couldn’t the city find us some emergency money?”
Layton assured the board members that the city will “have this year covered” financially but that the foundation will be on its own for the 2015 tournament.
Austerman said the Wingnuts staff, which has managed the tournament for several years, is available to offer guidance to the board. He offered to have board members shadow staff members and managers before, during and after the tournament to “get a leg up” on how the event is operated.
“We don’t plan on going anywhere,” he said. “Those same staff members are going to be there.”
“That makes me feel good, thank you,” Brewster replied.
At the close of the meeting, the board appointed its chairman and vice chairman, Steve Shaad and Mike Gehrer, respectively. Shaad is a former tournament director for the NBC.
In future meetings, the group will appoint a tournament manager. Then it will look at marketing the tournament to sponsors and donors.
Ultimately, the board said it hopes to return the tournament to its “former glory.”
“Baseball in the United States is a completely different animal,” Gehrer said. “We need to create a value for society.”