Flying over Lawrence-Dumont Stadium at dusk
Wichita is in talks with the New Orleans Baby Cakes franchise, an affiliate of the Miami Marlins, to be Wichita’s new Triple-A team, several sources said Wednesday.
The deal is close to being finalized but is not yet done, sources say.
Mayor Jeff Longwell plans a baseball announcement of some sort at his regular Thursday briefing.
Longwell didn’t return a call for comment, nor did Augusto “Cookie” Rojas, the Baby Cakes senior vice president and general manager.
The Wichita Wingnuts, an independent baseball franchise, played its final game on Monday.
The city plans to tear down the 84-year-old Lawrence-Dumont Stadium downtown and build a new stadium that would accommodate baseball and other activities, possibly soccer.
The city has been working to lure a team that is affiliated with a major-league franchise.
The Metairie-based Baby Cakes used to be known as the Zephyrs. The team is part of the Pacific Coast League.
The Baby Cakes now play at a stadium in Metairie called the Shrine on Airline. It opened in 1997 and has a seating capacity of 11,000. It is considered to be one of the more bare-bones ballparks, compared with newer stadiums.
The team’s lease with the state of Louisiana ends in 2020, which would mesh with Wichita’s plans to tear down Lawrence-Dumont and build a new stadium.
WGNO, the ABC affiliate in New Orleans, also reported Wednesday that “Baby Cakes may not be in New Orleans for very much longer.” It has unnamed sources who say they expect a Wichita deal to be announced Thursday.
“When reached for comment, Baby Cakes general manager Cookie Rojas said the team will definitely remain in the New Orleans area for 2019, but would not comment any further,” the station reported on its website.
Triple-A baseball is considered to be the highest division of minor-league ball with player prospects just below Major League Baseball level.
Wichita’s last affiliated team was the Wranglers, a Double-A farm team of the Kansas City Royals. The Wranglers left Wichita in 2007 and moved to Springdale, Ark., which had just built a new ballpark.
Financing for the Wichita project is expected to come from setting aside future sales and property taxes on commercial development expected to occur around the new stadium.
Wichita is planning to combine the stadium with significant retail, restaurant and drinking opportunities to create a more comprehensive entertainment experience that officials hope will attract patrons beyond the core baseball fans.