Final phase of Eck Stadium expansion underway
Kevin Jenks has been asked a million times whether the NBC World Series is still happening this year.
“The one thing we’ve tried to do as best we can is promote that we are still playing it,” Jenks said. “This year’s just in Eck Stadium at Wichita State.”
Jenks, the National Baseball Congress’s general manager, is set to direct the 85th straight NBC World Series starting Saturday. The event has been a staple in Wichita since 1935, but the 2019 World Series will be the first time it’s held outside of downtown’s Lawrence-Dumont Stadium.
Jenks said next year might be a split-site tournament, with games at Eck Stadium and the new downtown stadium, which is projected to be ready by spring.
Renovations are also currently underway at Wichita State’s Eck Stadium, but the Shockers’ home will still be able to host this year’s NBC World Series amid the downtown stadium’s rebuild. Jenks said he is not worried about how the work at Eck will factor into the experience.
The improvements at Eck will feature a strength and conditioning center, locker room, media room, player lounge and offices for coaches and staff. Construction has effectively shut down the third-base dugout.
During the Class 5A high school baseball state tournament, the dugout was moved farther from home plate and walled off with large orange construction barriers. Jenks said the third-base dugout will be adequate but will not be as nice as the one across the field.
“But you don’t win games in dugouts,” Jenks said. “You win games between the lines.”
Jenks said some of the biggest challenges for the 2019 NBC World Series have come in the translation of events from Lawrence-Dumont Stadium to Eck. With different regulations and dimensions, Jenks and his staff have spent hours in meetings with WSU representatives to learn their boundaries.
Jenks said the NBC World Series has had to tone down some of the “wacky” ideas it intended to bring, like walking a pair of Clydesdale horses onto the field.
“We’re coming in as leasees of the facility,” Jenks said. “With Lawrence-Dumont, I could tell you how many seats were in row 13 in section 102.”
The 2019 World Series will kick off 1 p.m. Saturday as the Derby Twins play the Jasper Reds (Indiana).
Jenks said there have been plenty of hurdles to jump in bringing the NBC World Series to Eck Stadium and he is excited to see the end product.
“We’re like a duck,” he said. “We look graceful on top of the water, and underneath though, we’re just paddling like crazy. I make that reference, but I think it helps that everyone on our staff has gone through the World Series battle a few times.”