Seeking to rekindle baseball fever in Wichita, the City Council voted Tuesday to hire a $50,000 consultant to try to bring Major League affiliated minor-league ball back to the city.
Mayor Jeff Longwell has said he expects to announce a deal for an affiliated team around the beginning of next year.
The council voted Tuesday to ink a $50,000 contract with Beacon Sports to open formal negotiations with minor-league teams, their parent clubs and Major League Baseball.
“City staff have reached the conclusion that, due to Minor League Baseball (MiLB) rules and protocols, it is necessary to formally contract with a specialized baseball consultant,” a staff report to the council said. “Beacon’s primary responsibility will be to officially contact and negotiate with interested leagues and team ownership executives on behalf of the City with the goal of securing the return of affiliated baseball to Wichita.”
The council approved the expenditure on its consent agenda without discussion or debate.
Beacon has already been consulting with the city on market comparisons, league comparisons and recent baseball stadium designs and costs.
The city is planning a special taxing district to generate to generate tens of millions of dollars to replace or dramatically renovate the aging Lawrence-Dumont Stadium with hopes of landing an affiliated tenant team.
Wichita has been without a MLB affiliated team since the Wranglers left for Springdale, Ark., in 2007.
The Wingnuts, the current baseball tenant at Lawrence-Dumont, plays in an independent league that is not part of MLB’s farm-team system.
The council also voted to spend as much as $200,000 on stadium repairs if necessary for the Wingnuts to play the 2018 season.
About $8,000 to $15,000 of that will go to pay for a structural analysis. The remaining $185,000 or more is authorized to pay for any repairs necessary to maintain the safety of stadium patrons, said Alan King, public works director.
He said his staff does not expect that any major structural problems will be found.