Valet parking for bicycles? It could happen at Wichita’s new baseball park

If you ride a $1,000 bicycle to a ballgame at Wichita’s new stadium, how do you make sure it will be there when you’re ready to ride home?

Valet parking for bicycles is one answer that a city committee is proposing.

The Wichita Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Board is recommending “bike valets” as a way to protect the bikes and encourage cycle commuting to the new $75 million ballpark that will soon be the home field of the Triple-A minor league team now known as the New Orleans Baby Cakes.

The stadium is under construction and the team, which will be renamed later this month, is scheduled to start play there in April.

The bike valet idea would work like this: An area would be set aside for bike parking and a nonprofit group — or maybe several — would contract to raise money for their cause by offering bike-watching services during the 70 to 77 baseball games and 130 or so other events planned at the stadium each year.

Bikes were generally scarce at the demolished Lawrence-Dumont Stadium, home of the Wichita Wingnuts, that the new ballpark is replacing.

But bike-ped board member Elizabeth Ablah said she thinks a valet service would encourage more people to pedal to the games.

“I think that would really set a nice tone,” she said.

Alan Kailer, president of the group Bike Walk Wichita, said there’s a need for more than regular rack parking these days, when an average road bike can cost $1,000 at a bike shop and cycling and walking in the downtown area are growing every year.

“From the very beginning, that stadium’s been conceived and promoted as an urban stadium,” Kailer said.

One of the biggest issues with the stadium project is parking and “every person you get to bike there is one less car to park,” he said.

Assistant City Engineer Paul Gunzelman attended the Monday night meeting of the bike-ped board and said he’ll be contacting other cities with comparable stadiums to find out how they handle the issue of bike storage during events.

Valet parking appears to be a better solution to bike protection than the alternative, lockers for parking bikes, he said.

He said those are very costly, would take up a lot more space, and he’s not sure how many people would use them.

The valet idea would be a lot easier to scale up and down depending on how much demand there is, he said.

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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.