The Wichita City Council Tuesday agreed to the issuance of STAR bonds to help pay for the construction of a new, modern ballpark where Lawrence-Dumont Stadium now sits.
The council passed the ordinance 7-0 at a special meeting Tuesday morning. All of the council members attended the meeting in person except for Cindy Claycomb, who listened in and voted by phone from Los Angeles where she’s attending a National League of Cities conference.
“This makes this project very real at this point,” Mayor Jeff Longwell said before the vote.
The new ballpark would have seating for 10,000 fans — 3,600 more than 84-year-old Lawrence-Dumont — and host every home game for a Triple-A minor-league baseball team that used to be called the New Orleans Baby Cakes, The Eagle previously reported. Construction on the ballpark is expected to start in April and be finished by the following March, in time for the 2020 season.
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The city will pay more than $80 million for the development project, which includes a pedestrian bridge across the Arkansas River. Development in the area could draw close to 900,000 visitors annually, according to city estimates.
The STAR bonds, tax increment financing, community improvement district funds and general obligation bonds are expected to cover project costs.
STAR bonds allow the city to borrow money for development then pay off the debt using increases in sales tax income from certain districts. The ballpark project will be paid for by STAR districts along the riverbanks from Kellogg to the Keeper of the Plains.
The city’s director of finance, Shawn Henning, told council members Tuesday that the $40 million in STAR bonds, which had previously been approved by the state, were sold on Nov. 1. The council approved their sale at its Oct. 16 meeting. Tuesday’s vote was to approve the issuance of the bonds.
Henning said the bond sale yielded a 3.915 rate, which she called “very favorable given the market conditions and the security that we had” for their issuance. Financing costs for the bonds will be about $2.14 million, she said. The bonds are payable over 20 years.
City officials hope Lawrence-Dumont Stadium, which sits along the west side of the river at McLean and Maple, will be demolished by the end of the year.