Flying over Lawrence-Dumont Stadium at dusk
The National Baseball Congress World Series has had a home since 1935, but it might be time to move.
Kevin Jenks, NBC general manager and tournament director, said the 84-year-old nonprofit organization has made plans in the event that Lawrence-Dumont Stadium is not made available in 2019. The Wichita Wingnuts announced May 3 that 2018 would be their last season there for the same reason.
The NBC has reached an agreement in principle with Wichita State to use Eck Stadium for its 2019 tournament in the event the city informs the organization of the stadium's future. The move could cause a smaller tournament field and shorter time frame.
NBC World Series games have been played at Eck in the past, but not the entire tournament. Jenks said this is the "contingency plan."
"It's never come down to a cost issue at playing at Wichita State," he said. "It's always just come down to history. It's our home. ... It would probably be an upgrade from a facility standpoint, but the only thing is that it's not Lawrence-Dumont."
Raymond "Hap" Dumont founded the NBC World Series and convinced the city to build a stadium. Jenks said he told the city if it was built, he would bring a nationwide tournament to Wichita.
Eighty-three years later, the NBC World Series is the "largest and the longest continuous sporting event in the country," Jenks said.
Jenks could not give specifics on the deal with WSU firstly because they have not been ironed out, but secondly because the fate of the NBC World Series is not decided. The city has not informed the NBC of whether the stadium will be available.
"Once the new stadium is built, should Lawrence-Dumont be torn down this year, we would go to Wichita State for one year or two years, whatever it is," Jenks said. "We have been told by the city we'll have a home at the new stadium when it's built."
The city office declined to comment on the status of Lawrence-Dumont for the NBC and whether there is a plan in place for a new stadium.
The Wingnuts' future, like the NBC, is in the air as well, general manager Brian Turner said in May. He said the team will announce the team's future during the 2018 season, which started May 18.
The Wingnuts declined to comment on the status of those decisions.
For the NBC, the seeming fate has been looming for years, Jenks said. Although the city's announcement on the Wingnuts' future gave a precursor, the reality is still harsh, he said. The stadium should have been updated or torn down 15 years ago, Jenks said.
"The stadium is not doing well health-wise," he said. "It's old. And from an amenities standpoint, there are upgrades that are needed, and I agree that the money spent to update the stadium comes too close as to what it would cost to build a new stadium.
"I have a business side and a personal side to how I look at Lawrence-Dumont Stadium. I know there will be several nights this year at 2 in the morning that I'll sit in the stands and walk around the stadium and think, 'I'll miss it.' "
For now, Jenks and the NBC are focusing on the world series starting July 27. While the NBC leadership is prepared for the move if it comes, Jenks said he is not completely ruling out staying at Lawrence-Dumont.
The NBC is preparing marketing content surrounding the 84-year history of the world series and Hap Dumont, but Jenks said he has requested the city give him an answer about the stadium's future before the start of the NBC World Series. That would allow the NBC to "properly commemorate" the world series at Lawrence-Dumont.
Still, even amidst all the uncertainty, Jenks said all is calm as preparations continue.
"I would say panic level is at a zero on a scale from 1-10," he said. "Right now, it's laser focused on getting everything together. And whatever happens after that, happens.
"The organization, the event isn't going anywhere. We're on much more solid ground than we have been in many years."