Politics & Government

Some Wichita baseball village developers revealed; more to be named later

The principal owner of the New Orleans Baby Cakes will also be the primary developer of the “ballpark entertainment village” around Wichita’s new stadium when he brings his team here next year, the city and team revealed Monday.

Lou Schwechheimer has provided the city with official notice that he owns a controlling 51% interest in Wichita Riverfront LP, the business entity that is getting approximately four acres of land for $4 adjacent to the new stadium at Maple and McLean. That land is to be developed for commercial use supporting the stadium.

The city said Schwechheimer, the managing general partner, is “the only member with substantive shares” in Wichita Riverfront.

Schwechheimer introduced six partners in his ownership team, including four who will take the lead in planning what is hoped will become a year-round entertainment district of restaurants, bars and shops with the ball park as its centerpiece.

The four members of the private development advisory board — Brian Fallon, Charles Irving, Tim Connelly and Juan Prieto — have a combined 125 years experience in commercial development and finance, including major projects such as casinos, hospitals and the football-themed village around the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio.

The four, all of whom hail from New England, are charged with doing the analysis and putting together a master plan “to enhance the quality of life for people in Wichita for years to come,” Schwechheimer said. “Their record of accomplishment is extraordinary.”

They’ll report their findings to Schwechheimer and two other partners, Matt White and Jordan Kobritz, who serve with city officials on the ballpark oversight committee.

The four acres, valued at $750,000 to $800,000, was part of the incentive package to get Schwechheimer to relocate his team to Wichita.

The city is spending $75 million on the stadium to accommodate the team at the site of the former Lawrence-Dumont Stadium.

New sales and property taxes from the commercial development around the stadium are earmarked to pay back the debt from building it.

It did raise questions when the city approved the land transfer to Wichita Riverfront, because nobody knew who was behind the development group, other than Schwechheimer.

The city requires the partnership to identify only owners with more than a 25% stake in the business, and Schwechheimer is the only one who qualifies, city spokeswoman Elyse Mohler said.

Schwechheimer said his group will introduce more partners in the months from now until the team begins playing in Wichita next March.

He said the team is in the process of recruiting local participation to give the team more of a Wichita feel.

“Over the course of the next several months we’ll announce some very interesting local ownership,” he said.

Schwechheimer also said the team is working closely in planning stadium-adjacent amenities with George Laham, a Wichita developer who controls the land to the north of the ballpark site.

In releasing the statement of ownership Monday, City Manager Robert Layton expressed confidence in Schwechheimer.

“The city conducted a background check on the developer as it does in all of its development agreements and the developer was found to be in good legal and financial standing,” Layton said. “The city has had the opportunity to get to know Mr. Schwechheimer and we are confident he will be able to deliver all the provisions contained in the development agreement.”

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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.