Politics & Government

Wichita’s new baseball stadium project gets off to a quick start

Specifics about new ballpark in Wichita unveiled

Officials from the city, along with architecture and construction firms, talk about new renderings of a new AAA ballpark that will be built in Delano. (Jan. 23, 2019)
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Officials from the city, along with architecture and construction firms, talk about new renderings of a new AAA ballpark that will be built in Delano. (Jan. 23, 2019)

Construction on Wichita’s new baseball stadium project is hitting warp speed as government officials and developers try to get the stadium up and running by spring 2020.

The first round of building was approved by the City Council on Tuesday. Work starts Wednesday, as equipment starts moving ground for utility lines, walls, dugouts and tunnels.

City officials say they’re still taking public input on what the stadium will look like above ground, but this phase of construction is all about laying a solid foundation.

The project is on a fast track to meet an ambitious construction schedule. As part of its design-build process, the project has been split into nine different phases that will come with maximum guaranteed prices in an ongoing negotiation process between developers and the city.

The first round of construction for Wichita’s new baseball stadium project could cost up to $7.6 million, according an agreement between the city and the project’s developers, JE Dunn Construction and Eby Construction.

The agreement was unanimously approved by the Wichita City Council on Tuesday. The first phase of construction will establish the base infrastructure for the stadium, including site utilities, mass grading, playing field walls, dugouts and tunnels.

Plans unveiled during Tuesday’s council meeting show the stadium design has been changed to include a third tunnel, two for players heading to their dugouts and one for umpires, mascots and the public to get to the field. It’s also designed to help the stadium comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

About $6.5 million of the $7.6 million maximum price for the first phase will be funded through a mix of bonds, sales taxes from area businesses and tax increment financing. Another $1,077,201 will be funded by a combination of funds set aside for street and infrastructure improvements and city utility funds, according to the agreement.

New water, sewage and storm sewer lines will be added around the perimeter of the stadium and tie into existing lines.

The highest priorities for project leaders are making sure the stadium has wider seats with more knee room, has a wider concourse and is family friendly, said Mark Bell of IFG, a group chosen to provide background advising for the project.

The seating in the stadium is being designed to offer better views to fans than other stadiums, according to Bell. The seats will be two inches wider than Major League Baseball stadium seats, at 21 inches. They will also have more of a rise than Major League stadiums, meaning it’ll be easier for fans to see over people in the row below.

Even as people get up to hit the concession stands, the field will be in view. Architects are designing the stadium to have 360-degree circulation with views to the field from anywhere inside the stadium, Bell said.

Those are the overarching priorities for the project, but most of the fine details are still being hammered out, including where the crowd for a 10,000-person-capacity stadium is supposed to park.

Longtime baseball fan Michael Conine voiced frustration about the potential logistical problems posed by parking, saying initial plans for the stadium have miscalculated the number of parking spaces available.

“I grew up in Wichita — born and raised. I have a 4-year-old daughter. And I would love to give her the experience of going to games, but I will not walk a half mile with my little girl — and I am not the only one,” Conine said.

Mayor Jeff Longwell told Conine that those details have not yet been decided, but assured him there will be more parking available than what has been shown.

“We haven’t shown all of the parking,” Longwell said. “We haven’t finished working out all of the parking details, folks. And I don’t know why people think that we should have all of the parking decided by now because all of the private development hasn’t been decided yet.”

Plans call for the new stadium to be built farther west, closer to Sycamore, where the Lawrence-Dumont Stadium parking lot used to be. That will open up more land between the stadium and the Arkansas River for commercial development to generate new sales tax and property tax to help finance the stadium project, city leaders have said.

The proposal approved Tuesday does not include certain utilities, such as a sanitary sewer line, that will be constructed with McLean Boulevard Improvement funds. Those costs are not included in this package.

A community-wide groundbreaking ceremony to give the public a sneak-peak at the stadium is planned for April.

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Chance Swaim won the Betty Gage Holland Award in 2018 for distinguished service to honor and protect the integrity of public dialogue on America’s college campuses. He has been a news reporter for The Wichita Eagle since 2018. You can contact him at 316-269-6752 and cswaim@wichitaeagle.com.


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