Politics & Government

City Council votes to narrow McLean to accommodate ‘walkability’ around new stadium

McLean Boulevard won’t be a boulevard anymore where it passes the new baseball stadium, the Wichita City Council decided Tuesday.

The council approved a plan to narrow McLean, now a four-lane street, to two lanes where it jogs around the $75 million ball park under construction at the corner of Maple and McLean.

“It will be reduced to one lane in either direction” between Maple and Douglas, with the intent “to make it more pedestrian friendly,” said Paul Gunzelman, the assistant city engineer who presented the plan to the council.

The overall plan for the stadium district includes a new walking bridge over the Arkansas River and commercial development along the west bank.

“Walkability” has been the watchword, as close-in parking will be far more scarce that it was at the now-demolished Lawrence-Dumont Stadium.

City Council members and Mayor Jeff Longwell have signaled for months that a narrowing of McLean would be in the works and Tuesday’s vote formalized that.

Gunzelman said the traffic count on McLean is about 10,000 vehicles a day.

He said he doesn’t expect changes to impact the flow of daily traffic that much, since most commuting is during daytime hours and baseball games will be mostly in the evenings and on weekends.

The street could be closed during games or special events at the stadium, Gunzelman said.

He pressed the council for a final decision Tuesday so the realignment of McLean won’t stall the construction of the ball park, which is being designed and built on an accelerated schedule.

The new park will be the home field of the Miami Marlins’ Triple-A farm team now known as the New Orleans Baby Cakes.

The team is planning to move to Wichita at the end of this season and occupy the stadium in time for the opening of minor league play next April.

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Senior Journalist Dion Lefler has been providing award-winning coverage of local government, politics and business in Wichita for 20 years. Dion hails from Los Angeles, where he worked for the LA Daily News, the Pasadena Star-News and other papers. He’s a father of twins, director of lay servant ministries in the United Methodist Church and plays second base for the Old Cowtown vintage baseball team.