Wichita’s new baseball stadium looks like a rush job

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OPINION AND COMMENT

Editorials and other Opinion content provide perspectives on issues important to our community and are independent of the work of our newsroom journalists.

Wichita city leaders say they are in a hurry.

That’s why they demolished Lawrence-Dumont Stadium so quickly and approved spending $ 81 million on a new stadium before any deal was signed.

This is why they started the project without knowing what it would look like or what the tenants could sign.

That is why they now want to sell prime waterfront land for $ 1 an acre.

Wow.

It’s time for Mayor Jeff Longwell and city leaders to slow down, speak up, answer questions and be transparent with the public about the development plans for the proposed baseball stadium.

Lou Schwechheimer, owner of the baseball team that intends to move from New Orleans to Wichita, told The Eagle his club had “been meeting quietly over the past few months” with chiefs. business and civic leaders.

Keyword: Quietly.

Schwechheimer says he’s “all-in” for a super-fast partnership that would see his team play at a new stadium by next spring. Longwell said a Triple-A team would help Wichita recruit and retain talent, and eliminate “the misconception that we are a quiet little town in the Midwest.”

It may be true. But without detailed information on what is promised and who will benefit from it, it looks like a backstage deal as devious as a runner stealing home plate.

A Delano neighborhood map, which has been in the works for more than a decade, was delayed last year so that authorities could complete the Ballpark Village Master Plan. This plan is still marked “draft” and leaves key questions unanswered, including street changes, traffic patterns, parking, and the precise location of a proposed pedestrian bridge over the Arkansas River.

It’s understandable that the Wichitans are a little wary of another public-private deal that promises great downtown development.

A major selling point of Intrust Bank Arena was the promise of new businesses springing up all around the arena. It took almost a decade to see the first substantial development in the immediate area, with the Spaghetti Works District along East Douglas.

The development of WaterWalk, directly across from the proposed baseball stadium, cost taxpayer $ 41 million in subsidies and brought the city nothing in what was supposed to be a profit-sharing deal.

For months now, officials in Wichita have said there is nothing to report on plans for the new stadium. At one point, Longwell even said he was under a ‘gag order’ that prevented him from discussing details of a new team or plans for the stadium.

If Longwell and others want public support for the stadium and the surrounding development, they need to reconsider their wait and trust strategy and start being upfront about what is going on for this key piece of center ownership. -city.

It’s in the public domain, at least for now. And the public deserves clear answers, not rushed work.

This story was originally published March 4, 2019 8:44 p.m.

Suzanne Perez is The Eagle’s opinion writer. During her career at the newspaper, she has covered breaking news, education, local government and other topics. An avid reader, Suzanne also oversees the cover of The Eagle’s books and coordinates the annual #ReadICT challenge. Contact her at 316-268-6567 or [email protected]


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