Top-level minor league baseball likely will return to Wichita in 2020.
Mayor Jeff Longwell said Thursday that the New Orleans Baby Cakes of the Pacific Coast League have filed an application to relocate to Wichita. The application must be approved by Minor League Baseball and the Pacific Coast League. It also must be reviewed by Major League Baseball.
City officials expect a decision later this year. The Baby Cakes are the Triple-A affiliate of the Miami Marlins.
Wichita has been without an affiliated baseball team since 2007 when the Wichita Wranglers — the Double-A affiliate of the Kansas City Royals at the time — left for a new stadium built for them in Springdale, Arkansas.
It has not had a Triple-A team since 1984, when the Wichita Aeros left for Buffalo, New York. Triple-A is the highest level of minor league baseball.
“Triple-A baseball is coming to Wichita because of who we are today and because of who we aspire to be tomorrow,” Longwell said Thursday during a news conference at Lawrence-Dumont Stadium. Gov. Jeff Colyer was among those attending the event.
“We’ve worked tirelessly on this deal," Longwell said. "It’s not just about another great quality of life amenity, or baseball. This is about investing in our city and continuing to make Wichita a regional destination.”
Lawrence-Dumont Stadium, built in 1934, will be torn down later this year. The new stadium complex is expected to cost between $60 million and $73 million. It will have 7,000 fixed seats and a total capacity of about 10,000.
City officials have said they hope it can be used for concerts, festivals and other events.
Longwell said the stadium will be paid for through state-approved STAR bonds and a local Tax Increment Finance district; both funding sources will capture added tax revenue brought in by development in the area. City officials hope it will revitalize the Arkansas River corridor and connect the stadium to the Delano neighborhood.
Longwell identified affiliated baseball as a critical component to improve the quality of life in Wichita. It is part of the city’s effort to retain existing employees and attract new ones, he said.
The Pacific Coast League has 16 teams. Other teams in the region include Oklahoma City, Omaha and Des Moines. New Orleans currently plays in a division with Memphis, Nashville and Round Rock, Texas.
City officials said they expect the Baby Cakes to get a new nickname when the team arrives in Wichita.
The NBC World Series, played in Wichita since 1935, will move to Wichita State University’s Eck Stadium next summer.
The Wichita Wingnuts, an unaffiliated team that began play in 2008 at Lawrence-Dumont, has not announced its future plans.
Tom Shine is director of news and public affairs at KMUW. Follow him in Twitter @thomaspshine.