There’s a long history of minor league baseball in Wichita, though it’s been more than a decade since affiliated baseball has been played in the city. The highly anticipated home opener for the new team – the Wichita Wind Surge – is Tuesday, April 14, 2020, when the Memphis Redbirds, Triple-A affiliate of the 11-time world champion St. Louis Cardinals, visit Wichita.
The team is in the Pacific Coast League, which has 16 teams competing from midwestern, western and southeastern states. You’ll see top prospects as well as players who have already played in the majors competing at this level, the highest level of Minor League Baseball and one step below Major League Baseball. Wichita’s team is affiliated with the Miami Marlins and is replacing the New Orleans Baby Cakes, whose current owner is moving the team to Wichita.
The inaugural season will include 70 home games. Notable league opponents include: the Omaha Storm Chasers (Kansas City Royals), the Oklahoma City Dodgers (Los Angeles Dodgers), Iowa Cubs (Chicago Cubs), Nashville Sounds (Texas Rangers) and Sacramento River Cats (San Francisco Giants).
Expect more than baseball when you attend a game. Wichita Baseball 2020 will have weekly promotions including Thirsty Thursdays, Friday Night Fireworks and a series of bands on Saturday nights. There will be fun for all ages, including a play area for kids, a splash pad, creative food and drink concessions with a local flare, as well as suites, club level, group seating and party areas.
The team’s home field will be a new state-of-the-art venue currently under construction along the banks of the Arkansas River in downtown Wichita. The $75 million stadium will seat 6,500 plus 3,500 more on berms and picnic areas and is being built on the site where Lawrence-Dumont Stadium stood from 1934 to 2018.
Fan comfort is being built into the stadium, from drink rails and wide rows in the seating bowl, which won’t require you to get up each time someone walks out of the row, to uninterrupted views of the field from the concourse.
Officials for the new team are planning on more than 100 additional events each year beyond the 70+ baseball games. They've hinted at football games, an outdoor hockey game featuring the Wichita Thunder minor league hockey team, an outdoor skating rink, concerts, festivals and more.
A considerable amount of thought has been put into making the facility not only a great location for American’s favorite pastime, but also for groups to gather.
Wichita Wind Surge staff know that having unique meeting spaces incorporated into the stadium will be a major draw, bringing in everything from corporate gatherings to weddings. “There are a variety of places within the stadium to have meetings on non-game day events, and we want to utilize the meeting space we have so people can have the environment they want,” said Bob Moulette, assistant general manager for the Wichita Wind Surge. “Ideally, we’d like to utilize this facility 200 times a season – not only for our own events, but one-off events as well.”
Expected Meeting Spaces (with estimated capacity):
- Fidelity Bank Club: 250 Person Capacity
- Miller Lite Party Deck: 250 Person Capacity
- Emprise Pavilion: 175 Person Capacity
- 2 Private Suites: 30 Person Capacity
- Outdoor Picnic Area: 450 Person Capacity
Moulette says on game days, the two suites and the Fidelity Bank Club are suitable for private meetings. For those looking for meeting space on non-game days, the Fidelity Bank Club, which comes with audio/visual hookups, would work well. As for internet, there will be WiFi access throughout.
Baseball history in Wichita
From ballfields in Riverside Park in the 1800s to games in the early 1900s at Island Park in the middle of the Arkansas River on what was then Ackerman Island, baseball has been a part of Wichita’s history.
Wichita had a minor league team from 1908 through 1933, when the stadium on Ackerman Island burned. The City of Wichita built a new stadium in 1934 to launch a national tournament organized by sporting goods salesman Raymond “Hap” Dumont. Similar tournaments had failed on both coasts, but Dumont secured Satchel Paige – considered the greatest pitcher of the day – who came in and struck out 60 batters while winning four games. That brought national attention to the tournament and Wichita.
The National Baseball Congress World Series remained at the stadium – eventually named Lawrence-Dumont Stadium for the tournament founder and Wichita’s mayor when the stadium was built, Charles S. Lawrence – until the stadium was demolished in 2018. The tournament is still played in Wichita and each year brings the top college-age and amateur players to compete for a national championship. More than 800 NBC World Series players have gone on to play Major League Baseball, including league MVPs, Cy Young Award winners and Hall of Famers.
Part of Wichita’s baseball history is the prominence of the Wichita State University baseball program, which claims Joe Carter, Mike Pelfrey and Darren Dreifort as notable alumni. The Shockers made five trips to the College World Series in six years in the late 1980s and early 1990s, bringing home the national championship in 1989.
Wichita Wind Surge will offer family entertainment at family prices with the highest priced ticket at $15.
Season tickets are available now, and individual tickets will go on sale at a later date. A complete 2020 schedule with game times and road games, as well as ticket sales information, can be found at milb.com/Wichita.