City Hall is leaning toward narrowing — or possibly eliminating — McLean Boulevard between Maple and Douglas as part of the project to build a new $75 million baseball stadium, officials said Thursday.
The fate of McLean has been an open question since last week when the city announced that it had landed a Triple-A baseball team from the Pacific Coast League — now called the New Orleans Baby Cakes — to play at a new stadium. The new ball park will be built to replace the 84-year-old Lawrence-Dumont Stadium at the corner of McLean and Maple.
McLean is a four-lane thoroughfare that passes between the existing stadium and the west bank of the Arkansas River.
A preliminary design sketch of the new ball park released by the city showed a stadium on the river bank, with no McLean at all.
On Thursday, Mayor Jeff Longwell and Vice Mayor Bryan Frye said that’s not a done deal. But it is unlikely that McLean will remain in its current four-lane configuration, they said.
“Obviously, we’re going to put out an RFP (request for proposals) for a design-build and I’m looking forward to seeing the creative ideas that come out of that,” Frye said. “Who knows what they’ll envision, whether it stays as a four-lane or a two-lane or no lanes?
“I think the idea of creating a more walkable district around the stadium so we can open it up and create an exciting environment — four lanes of traffic probably doesn’t do that.”
Longwell clarified a comment he made when he announced that the Baby Cakes would be coming to Wichita. He said the new stadium would “embrace” the river, unlike some earlier developments in the area that “turned their back” on it.
Planners do want to move it closer to the river, Longwell said.
“What closer means we don’t really know,” he added. “There’s some conversations that have potentially McLean Boulevard going down to a two-lane roadway. Obviously, the drawings that we showed didn’t show McLean in there, but the intent is to potentially still have McLean. We don’t know yet.”
Closing McLean where it goes by the stadium would eliminate one of the key access routes from the south leading to the Advanced Learning Library, a $38 million facility the city opened in June at McLean and Second Street.
But Frye said another street could be expanded to handle that traffic.
“I think we’re also looking at some improvements on Sycamore (just west of the ball park) as well, coming off of Maple, up by the stadium, through the (Douglas Avenue) roundabout and then up north into the Advanced Learning Library.”
In any case, Sycamore will need improvements to give better access to the “EPC Project,” a hotel/apartment complex just south of the library scheduled to start construction next month, Frye said.