Lou Schwechheimer, who brought minor league baseball back to Wichita, has died.
The owner of the Wind Surge never saw his team play in its new stadium because the 2020 season was canceled by the pandemic.
The team said in a news release Wednesday that Schwechheimer died of complications from Covid-19. He was 62.
“There are no words to express the loss of the entire Wind Surge family,” Jared Forma, the team’s senior vice president and general manager said in a statement. “Lou was truly one of a kind, someone who never met a stranger.
“He will be deeply missed by his family and many friends, which included an extended baseball family.”
Schwechheimer spent more than 40 years in minor league baseball, joining the Pawtucket Red Sox in 1979. He later became part of the Rhode Island team’s ownership group.
He also owned the Charlotte Stone Crabs in Port Charlotte, Florida.
Schwechheimer bought a controlling in the New Orleans Baby Cakes in 2015. That team would eventually relocate to Wichita following the 2019 season.
He worked with former mayor Jeff Longwell to make that happen.
“The mayor called me … and said, ‘This city deserves affiliated baseball, and we need to bring it back,’” Schwechheimer said in November 2019, when the team was introduced.
Wichita’s minor league baseball history stretches back more than 100 years. But the city hadn’t fielded a Triple-A team – the highest level of minor league baseball – since 1984. It lost its Double-A team in 2007.
The Wichita Wingnuts, an independent team with no major-league affiliation, played at Lawrence-Dumont Stadium from 2008 until 2018.
The city knocked down Lawrence-Dumont and built a new $75 million stadium just south of the Delano neighborhood to lure the former Baby Cakes franchise to Wichita. But the Wind Surge never got to play at Riverfront Stadium after the pandemic delayed, and then ultimately canceled, all of minor league baseball.
“We look at this through the prism of 30 years,” Scwechheimer said earlier this year, after the season was delayed but before it was canceled. “One month or two months or one season doesn’t necessarily define how we look at the big picture.”
Schwechheimer was an active presence in Wichita over the last year, overseeing construction of the stadium, working on the team’s name and branding, and talking to civic groups about the team.
“The Wind Surge team will work tirelessly to fulfill Lou’s dreams and visions for the great city of Wichita, a place he was proud to call home,” Forma said in a statement. “We will ensure his legacy lives forever at Riverfront Stadium.”