Lawrence-Dumont Stadium – Wichita Wingnuts
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Wichita Declares Independence from the Independents
The Wichita Wingnuts joined the American Association and took up residence at Lawrence-Dumont Stadium in 2008 when the affiliated Wichita Wranglers relocated to Springfield, Arkansas to become the Northwest Arkansas Naturals. The ballpark which originally opened in 1934 received new life in the form of the Wingnuts who won 8 division championships in 11 seasons. The 2018 season, however, become the swan song for Lawrence-Dumont Stadium and for the Wingnuts as well.
The City of Wichita has announced intentions to demolish the 84-year-old ballpark with plans to build a new state of the art facility on the same site along the banks of the Arkansas River. The new ballpark will bring with it a return of affiliated baseball as the Triple-A New Orleans Baby Cakes will relocate to Wichita for the 2020 season.
The stadium’s most prolific tenant was the National Baseball Congress; it hosted the annual NBC World Series pitting the best semi-pro baseball teams in the country. In 1935 it welcomed one of the first integrated baseball teams – the Bismarck Churchills led by Hall of Famer Satchel Paige. The Churchill’s wound up winning the very first tournament and its accomplishments are still talked about till this day.
In 1949 it was the last venue to host the College World Series before that moved to its permanent home in Omaha, Nebraska the next season. In 1978 it would be renamed Lawrence-Dumont Stadium in honor of sports promoter Ray “Hap” Dumont who was an influential figure in the Wichita sports scene throughout his career.
Food & Beverage 3
Lawrence-Dumont Stadium presents the normal options one would expect at a ballpark, the main concession stand located behind home plate on the concourse houses the main food and beverage options. In this area, you will find hot dogs, hamburgers, chicken fingers, and other ballpark favorites. This stand also offers soft pretzels, fries, and a variety of other ballpark staples. This is also where you will find fountain sodas, basic draft beers, and bottled water.
The gem of Lawrence-Dumont is found on the concourse down the first baseline, tucked away under an awning near the team office is a small bar with a wide variety of beverage. A craft beer enthusiast will be happiest here as many local options are available in bottles, cans, and on draft. Wichita Brewing Company WuShock Wheat is a delicious easy drinking option on game day.
The atmosphere at Lawrence-Dumont is lacking. For a normal run of the mill game, the ballpark can feel cavernous due to a small crowd and the spacious layout of the seating bowl which extends almost all the way down each baseline. The spacious foul territory also detracts from the atmosphere, an aspect that was once common in ballparks is now so rare that it detracts from the intimacy of the game and is noticeable.
Awkward bucket seats attached to the top of metal bleachers similar to those found at Pohlman Field in Beloit, Wisconsin, also detracts from the atmosphere and causes a hodgepodge impression to the ballpark.
A positive is the large and spacious team store which is stocked with a wide variety of merchandise that is at times hard to come by at the independent level. The stadium houses an array of history of former minor league teams and NBC players who honed their skills in the last eight and a half decades. There are plaques of former greats on the concourse and a pavilion area that honors the likes of “Hap” DuMont and Satchel Paige for their commitments to the NBC World Series.
The ballpark is situated along the banks of the Arkansas River and provides a picturesque view of downtown Wichita; one view from behind home plate and it is easy to see why the new ballpark will be constructed in the exact same spot. With a great view and easy access to everything, downtown Wichita has to offer the location could easily check every box on any checklist.
There is one exception however and that is the immediate neighborhood behind the stadium. The issue is that it is a large residential area with single-family homes which means two-lane residential streets which could slow entering and exiting on busy game days.
A nice find however close to the ballpark and situated on the same side of the river is Aero Plains Brewing. Here you will find tasty craft beer with a constant limited food menu. With a little research of the brewery website or social media however you can find a food truck schedule and plan accordingly.
Old Town is where the action is in Wichita. The red brick streets house a bevy of options from restaurants, breweries, shops, music venues, and nightlife destinations. Emerson Biggin’s is a sports bar pub, GangNam Korean Bar & Grill is the only one of its kind in town, and Mort’s Martini and Cigar Bar offers 160 martinis. The district is also home to live music at Barleycorns and rooftop entertainment at Industry Rooftop.
The baseball fans of Wichita enjoy and appreciate baseball; they typically average in the top half of independent baseball in attendance and know the game. These fans embraced and appreciated independent baseball and supported the Wingnuts for 11 seasons; they know the game and watch the action on the field closely.
Lawrence-Dumont is easily accessible and conveniently located in downtown Wichita. With ample parking this location is almost perfect, the only concern is the egress of the two-lane roads immediately surrounding the ballpark. This, however, is likely only an issue on large attraction games.
Return on Investment 4
With tickets ranging in price from $8 for general admission up to $15 for lower box reserved prices are pretty in line with others across the American Association. The Wingnuts do have the dreaded day of game ticket premium so purchasing tickets in advance can save $2 per ticket in all sections.
Where the real value comes in at Lawrence-Dumont is when everything else is taken into consideration. Many items in the concessions stand come in under $6 while good local craft beer options can be found for $5. Paired with reasonable priced items in the team store and the result is the real value being found at a Wingnuts game.
The stadium receives the extra point for the history on display throughout the concourse and in the pavilion that wraps around the right field corner. The pavilion includes a large plaque dedicated to Satchel Paige and Hap Dumont, along with smaller plaques that extend to the concourse featuring Joe Carter, Roger Clemens, and Buck O’Neil.
The stadium gets a second point for the Tecate Field Pass, a section of seats that puts fans right on the field of play in the left field foul territory.
The stadium receives a final point for the possible haunting presence of “Hap” Dumont who succumbed to a heart attack at his office in the stadium in 1971. There have been times when staff members have heard his voice, seen shadows, and felt a presence before or after a ball game. One such time is when they were testing the microphones for the NBC World Series when an eerie voice told them to turn down the volume.
Baseball in Wichita will live on and some may even see it as a rebirth when the Triple-A franchise moves into a new state of the art facility in 2020. There is something to be said however for a classic facility offering an affordable family option while also providing a quality product on the field. Lawrence-Dumont Stadium is a grand old lady who has served her time well in the city, perhaps 80-some years from now, fans will be saying the same about the new facility getting ready to be constructed,
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