A sales tax bond district to fund about half the projected cost of replacing Lawrence-Dumont Stadium with a new and more modern ball park has been approved by the Wichita City Council.
Council members approved a STAR bond district on a 7-0 vote without debate or discussion Tuesday. Although they held a required public hearing, no one spoke in favor or against the plan.
The goal is to replace the 82-year-old Lawrence-Dumont with a modern baseball park that could also double as a soccer stadium.
STAR bonds are expected to pay about half of the expected $40 million cost. City officials hope that will be enough to build a new stadium, although a major renovation keeping parts of the current stadium could be an alternative.
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Bob Hanson, head of the Wichita Sports Commission, said after the vote that he wants to see baseball generate the kind of excitement and commerce the city will see next year when the NCAA basketball tournament comes to Intrust Bank Arena.
“Just with the new NCAA events coming to town, you can see what you do when you get facilities,” he said. “They have a huge impact on the community.
“A new baseball stadium and whatever we can put together with that would be tremendous. There’s lots of opportunity.”
The stadium is envisioned as the anchor of major commercial development west of the Arkansas River downtown.
The plan is to build a restaurant, bar and entertainment area between the stadium to the south and the library to the north.
City officials hope to replace the Wingnuts, the current baseball tenant at Lawrence-Dumont, with a higher-level minor-league baseball team affiliated with a Major League Baseball franchise.
The city hasn’t had an MLB farm team since 2007, when the Wichita Wranglers moved to a newly built $50 million stadium in Springdale, Ark.
The STAR bond district encompasses the current stadium site and the neighboring Ice Center. It swings north along the river to the site of the new Advanced Learning Library being built at Second and Sycamore.
STAR bonds are a financial mechanism in which the city borrows money for public improvements and pays it back from increased sales taxes generated by the increased commerce.
Probably the most visible use of STAR bonds in the state is the Kansas Speedway, the Sporting KC soccer stadium and surrounding commercial development in Kansas City, Kan.
The bond plan must be approved by the state Department of Commerce.