WICHITA THIRD BASE LINEMAN: Club seating sits on the third base side of Riverfront Stadium in Wichita, Kan. (Courtesy DLR Group)

‘It’s part of a grander vision,’ Wind Surge owner says

The new $75 million minor league ballpark in Wichita will open without a naming-rights partner. Given the COVID-19 crisis, it’s a tough call as to exactly when its doors will open after things get back to normal across the country.

For now, Riverfront Stadium is the official name for the home of the Wichita Wind Surge, the Miami Marlins’ Triple-A affiliate. Wichita city officials say the current name remains a “placeholder” until a naming-rights deal is signed, according to a story on kansas.com.

Lou Schwechheimer, the team’s managing general partner, offered a different take of the situation.

“We decided to make it Riverfront Stadium because it’s part of a grander vision, creating a baseball and entertainment village,” Schwechheimer said. “In terms of corporate partnerships, we had five companies take the lead and create their own spaces with naming rights. It allowed us to keep our ticket prices at $15 and $8.”

Those five firms are legacy partners. Two local banks, Emprise and Fidelity, plus regional supermarket Dillons, Credit Union of America and Coors all signed deals between five and 15 years, tied to annual values in the six figures.

Two hundred other companies signed smaller deals.

In a sense, the team views the Riverfront Stadium name as inclusive of all sponsors and the community as a whole. 

“We all agreed that rather than dive into the deep end of the naming-rights pool, we wanted to make sure everybody that wanted to participate got a seat at the table,” Schwechheimer said. “As we develop the riverfront and create a festive district, we’ll revisit the whole potential naming partnership of the entire entity at the appropriate time. For now, launching the ballpark was the first phase.”

Before making the Riverfront Stadium name public, the Wind Surge contacted major league and minor league baseball officials early in ballpark development to make sure the rights to use the phrase were available, Schwechheimer said.

MLB’s Cincinnati Reds played at Riverfront Stadium from 1970 to 2002 before it was replaced by Great American Ball Park in 2003. The old stadium was demolished in December 2002.

“We wanted to make sure from a legal and branding and trademark standpoint that we would have the blessing from all of professional baseball to use that name,” he said. “We went through the proper channels. Once we received it, we kept it private until (February). When we knew we were on time and on budget, we unveiled it.”

The name fits like a glove for the 6,000-seat venue built along the Arkansas River in downtown Wichita, he said.

“It’s perfect,” Schwechheimer said. “You can go to the Emprise Bank Pavilion, have a beer and a hot dog in this wonderful space overlooking the entire stadium, and then turn 180 degrees and look into the river and the skyline.”