To be perfectly clear, Lawrence-Dumont Stadium looks as good as an 84-year-old ballpark can look.
The artificial playing surface is top-notch. The dugouts, once so cramped that players 6-foot and taller had trouble standing up straight in them, are roomy and padded. Paint jobs have it resembling 1993.
Just don’t look at the ceiling underneath the grandstand, which could use some work. Or the restrooms, which are functional but … functional.
The Wingnuts opened their 11th — and they say final — season at Lawrence-Dumont on Friday night. Club officials say the city, which owns the stadium, has told them it won’t be available next season.
That would seem to mean that Lawrence-Dumont could meet a wrecking ball as the city tries to lure an affiliated team to town, building a new stadium on L-D property as the enticement. Mayor Jeff Longwell has backed off promising an announcement is imminent after saying last August a franchise would be announced by the end of 2017.
The lingering future of Lawrence-Dumont has even prompted some recently to opine on The Eagle’s Opinion pages that the stadium should be saved. For historical value. Because of its age. (And maybe because it’s paid for.)
Please, let’s not go there.
Yes, the stadium has history. Satchel Paige pitched in it 83 years ago. Mickey Mantle made an appearance in the 1970s. Hundreds of future major-league players stepped onto the field as a Wichita minor leaguer or as part of the National Baseball Congress World Series.
But any ballpark around for nine decades is going to have history. Paige pitched on a lot of mounds. Minor leaguers become major leaguers all over.
Except for the quirky past of the NBC World Series, which was at its best when the nation’s top college players played with and against semi-pros, Lawrence-Dumont has no distinguishing history.
As a child of L-D, who can name as many 1970s Aeros as the next guy, it hurts to admit that.
Live in Wichita all your life and you have a Lawrence-Dumont memory. Heck, new Wichitans may have already stadium memories after the team of former major-leaguers re-energized the NBC for two years.
But in a time of continued downtown revitalization, this is the next piece once an affiliated team is secured. Baseball has occupied one of the most prime pieces of Wichita property for so long, but Lawrence-Dumont has far outlived its usefulness.
It’s old, battered, and no amount of renovation money can make it a ballpark for our future.
Look, you can make the case that Lawrence-Dumont remains functional for the Wingnuts, an American Assocation team without major-league affiliation, and the NBC.
You can also argue that Wichita shouldn’t be getting back into the business of hosting a major-league affiliate, given our spotty history of supporting Triple-A and Double-A teams.
But you can’t make the case that Lawrence-Dumont should be the home to a new, affiliated ballclub, or that a new ballpark should be built for the Wingnuts. Both are round hole/square peg scenarios.
No affiliated ballclub in its right mind would come to Wichita to play in Lawrence-Dumont. There are no minor-league teams looking to move into an older stadium.
A new ballpark, paid for by a tax-increment financing district that includes the nearby Delano area, isn’t possible unless the area brings in new revenue (such as an affiliated franchise). To build the Wingnuts a new home, the city would have to find a new, more expensive way.
Longwell has preached patience, which is tough after 20 months of public speculation on minor-league baseball’s return. Meanwhile, give up the idea of saving an 84-year-old stadium for a new franchise. It had its time. Time for new.