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Wind Surge CEO reflects on lessons learned, new changes for second season

Brian Grimmett

The Wind Surge opens its second season Friday night at Riverfront Stadium.

The Wichita Wind Surge averaged more than 4,000 fans last year in its first season.

That was ninth out of the 30 Double-A teams nationally. And it was the largest average attendance in Wichita’s long minor-league baseball history.

The next trick? Doing it again.

The Wind Surge opens its second season Friday night at Riverfront Stadium against the Tulsa Drillers.

Jordan Kobritz is an owner of the Wind Surge and the team’s CEO. He talked with The Range about lessons learned from last season, what changes fans will notice this year and retail development around the stadium.

Courtesy photo
Jordan Kobritz is an owner of the Wind Surge and the team’s CEO.

The interview was edited for length and clarity.

Interview Highlights

Last season

We didn't know we were actually gonna play last year until the last week in February after not having played at all the year before. So it gave us very little prep time.

Last year obviously was a scramble. I think every year at this time it's a scramble. Last year, it was a scramble on ... I shouldn't say the word steroids in baseball ... but it was a lot different, OK?

We didn't know what to expect. We had never operated the facility. We didn't know how fans would embrace it, but they did. The weather was absolutely fantastic.

So overall, I think it was a fantastic year.

Lessons learned from the first season

I think the number one lesson was this facility is everything we imagined it would be when we designed it and built it.

I think that has to be number one. I think the second lesson that we learned is that the people will embrace you if you've got a good product and you're trying to treat them well.

Changes this year

There were some staffing challenges last year. I think in any business, the number one concern is always personnel for one reason or another.

So I think that's going to change this year. And I think people will be pleased with some of the other new people we've brought on board and what they have done to make the process of buying a ticket, getting to the ballpark, getting into the ballpark and enjoying the game, and getting out is going to be maybe a more pleasant experience with fewer challenges.

Will Season 2 be easier than Season 1

I don't know if the word is easier, but you work more efficiently and hopefully focus on things that you can control a little bit more.

But nothing's easy. Nothing worth doing is easy. At least that's been my experience.

Development around Riverfront Stadium

This location is hard to duplicate, being on the west bank of the river. Having the funds to build a new ballpark here was also enticing.

The downtown is on the upswing for the last 10 years. There's been a concerted public-private partnership and an effort to develop the downtown of Wichita, which I think benefits everybody, not just those who are downtown or work downtown. Obviously, with our development hopefully getting underway this summer, I think in two years, maybe three, this whole area is gonna be transformed.

Hosting more events other than baseball

The goal is always to have more events. … Actually tying them down is the challenge. Some of that is totally beyond our control.

Concert promoters are risk-averse, like a lot of us. And so they tried to stick with the tried and true … older bands that are back on tour. And they're gonna go to a bigger facility, or they're going to go to a facility where weather may not be an impediment.

His pitch to fans

This is a place to have some fun, to bring your family, enjoy your night out and see what we have to offer. If it doesn't fit, we understand. But I think, based on the reviews we got last year, it does fit for most people.

I always felt like our competition is not other forms of entertainment. Our competition is inertia, getting people to make the move and say, “OK, let's go out to the ballpark tonight … ”

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.