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Pandemic Throws Wind Surge A Curve

Stephan Bisaha
KMUW/File photo
Riverfront Stadium won't see a Wind Surge game until at least 2021.

Even though it was obvious what the outcome would be, that didn’t make the news any easier to take.

Minor League Baseball — and with it, the Wichita Wind Surge — canceled its 2020 season on Tuesday.

Minor League Baseball’s fate was decided when Major League Baseball announced its plan to begin play later this month. The plan included each major league team building a 30-player practice team composed of players who normally would playing in the minor leagues. Wichita is the Triple-A affiliate of the Miami Marlins.

"While the writing might may have been on the wall, certainly disappointment is the sentiment throughout the office,” said Jared Forma, the Wind Surge’s senior vice president and general manager. “And more so for this great community than for ourselves."

The Wind Surge was supposed to begin play in the new, $75 million Riverfront Stadium on April 14 as part of the Pacific Coast League. City leaders lured the team here from New Orleans with the promise of a new stadium and a deal to allow team owners to develop land along the river.

But the start of the season was delayed because of the pandemic, and then ultimately canceled.

"Today’s announcement is a reminder of how much we treasure our game and how much we wanted to spend time at our favorite ballpark," Branch Rickey III, president of the Pacific Coast League, said in a statement. "We are disappointed for our fans who, like all of us with the Pacific Coast League, will miss not having this season."

The cancelation is also another economic blow to the City of Wichita. In addition to the Wind Surge’s rent payment, the city will miss out on the sales tax revenue that would have been generated by 70 home games.

For now, Forma says the team is contacting ticket holders, sponsors and advertisers. Fans who already bought tickets for this season can exchange them for a 2021 game or receive a refund.

When the Wind Surge came to town, team officials said they wanted to use the stadium about 200 days a year. In addition to baseball, they also planned high school games in a variety of sports, concerts and other events.

Forma says the team still wants to follow that plan. But the difficult question is when.

"I think for us to sit here today on June 30 and say in July or August, September, we can do X, Y, Z, it’s just premature still," he said.

"As badly as we want to use the stadium for non-baseball events as we do baseball, I can’t tell you when that time will come."

If that time comes this year, Forma said the team will put the stadium to use. If not, it will concentrate on preparing for the 2021 season.

"I think Jay (Miller), our president, used the line a few weeks ago: It’s like having a shiny new Christmas present under the tree that you can’t touch for a year," Forma said.

"As great as we said we’d make 2020, we have some extra time on our hands to make 2021 even better."

Tom Shine is the director of news and public affairs. Follow him on Twitter @thomaspshine. To contact KMUW News or to send in a news tip, reach us at news@kmuw.org.

Tom joined KMUW in 2017 after spending 37 years with The Wichita Eagle where he held a variety of reporting and editing roles. He also is host of The Range, KMUW’s weekly show about where we live and the people who live here. Tom is an adjunct instructor in the Elliott School of Communication at Wichita State University.