Wichita City Manager Robert Layton said he’ll meet late this week with the city’s auditor as his review of the struggling National Baseball Congress’ books moves into high gear.
Layton said the City Council has asked him to come up with a plan to strengthen the nearly eight-decade-old baseball tournament, held every August at Lawrence-Dumont Stadium downtown.
He declined to speculate on possible solutions pending the late-week meeting.
“The tournament isn’t going anywhere,” Layton said. “Our council members are committed to it as a Wichita institution ... and my perception is the council wants a plan to make it work sooner rather than later, with changes as early as 2013.”
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City officials opened the audit in November amid concerns that the tournament has been habitually delinquent paying its participant 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 $60,000 purse hasn’t changed for a decade, and the $18,000 first prize 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 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.
The city acquired the summer tournament in 2007 from owners Bob and Mindy Rich.