What a great night for baseball! May 14th. The new Wichita Wind Surge vs. the Amarillo Sod Poodles. If anything, this league has the best names in baseball. I’m sure most of the interest is in the ball game. As it should be! But I want to take a few moments to point out the fantastic artwork that decorates The Riverfront Stadium. For fun, Jeremy and I took our dads to the game. The rain cleared early in the day, and it left a nice breeze behind to keep the stadium cool.
Truth be told, I couldn’t wait for the stadium to open so I went in mid-April to check out the stadium’s exterior.
The stadium on Maple and McLean sat empty for a year due to COVID. Before then, Lawrence–Dumont Stadium fulfilled Wichita’s professional baseball needs. The stadium held 6,400 fans and hosted the National Baseball Congress World Series from 1935 until 2018.
Prior to “Big Daddy” Lawrence-Dumont Stadium (LDS), baseball was played at Ackerman Island’s stadium from 1912 to 1933.
LDS was built on what was known as “Payne’s Pasture”. It was a Works Progress Administration project during the Great Depression.
The new place was named Lawrence Stadium in honor of a former mayor.
Ray “Hap” Dumont founded the National Baseball Congress in 1935. He paid Satchel Paige a thousand dollars to play in the first game.
In 1978, the stadium became Lawrence-Dumont Stadium.
The stadium was home to the Wichita Indians, Braves, Aeros, Pilots, Wranglers and Wingnuts before meeting the wrecking ball to make way for the new stadium.
Now back to Riverfront Stadium. According to the website there are nine public artworks by 12 local and regional artists in and around the Stadium.
There’s a unique baseball scene along the Sycamore Street fence that requires you to be at just the right angle to fully see it. From the other direction, you can’t see it at all. It was painted by Ellamonique Baccus. She was also part of the 9th Street Revitalization Project.
If you were wondering what happened to the frieze that sat on the corner of Maple and Sycamore… you can find it as part of an artwork called “Point Of Convergence.” The original frieze was created by artist Randy Julian. It is supported by a steel frame created by artist Brady Hatter.
Hatter created the three pods that sit around the WSU campus.
The Maple Street entry is covered with a giant mural by artist Chris Garcia from Brickmob. If you look closely at the bottom of the mural you’ll see the names of all of Wichita’s baseball teams.
There is a cool hanging sculpture as you walk into the stadium off Maple. It’s called, “Triple Play.” Three artists worked on the project, Eric Schmidt, Stephen Atwood, and Kent Thomas Williams. According to WSU News, “Each piece…. uses light and stainless steel to celebrate the movement in baseball and attract attention from far outside the stadium. Williams said the light levels will be programmed to react to data such as pitch counts and game patterns.” I walked by several times, but it was not working on Friday night. That’s ok, it’s just one more reason to head back to the ballpark.
Out front on McLean, sits artist Derek Porter’s 30-foot tall “Faceted Column.” It features 5,000 faceted mirrors creating what I like to think of as a “disco column.” I stuck my camera inside the column, which made for a cool shot.
The concourse features an abstract look at the Arkansas River called, “Around the Horn” by Wichitan Jonathan Wood.
I reached out to the Wind Surge for additional information about the art pieces in the park, but they did not respond. Thankfully, the Eagle did a story, and I was able to use some of their information.
According to The Eagle, there are about 20 murals in the stadium’s bathrooms created by Wichitans Joshua Tripoli and Rebekah Lewis. The murals “are modern interpretations of classic designs inspired by baseball cards and comic books, using bold, bright colors and typography.”
Rose Hansen and Ernie Sharp designed and fabricated, “The Imposing Sky.” Which sits above the food court. The Eagle’s said it is “56-feet-long metal panorama of the city skyline.
Prior to 2020, the Wind Surge were known as the New Orleans Baby Cakes but the team’s history can be tracked all the way back to 1888, when they were called the Kansas City Blues. At one point, Mickey Mantle played for them.
The stadium’s website says the Delano Street entrance will feature a new sculpture every year. Right now it is bare, but can’t wait to see what they install there. There was an abstract sculpture in place Friday night. But I never got a chance to take the picture.
I’m not sure if they are considered part of the art pieces or not, but there are three bike racks that are really cool.
First the bat and balls, created by William Stofer, is a baseball bat laying atop three baseballs. What a fun idea to encapsulate the main entrance.
Next the Bike ICT. Just a simple bicycle and the letters ICT, the letters are yellow and bold and really pop against the dark color of the stadium. Artist Patrick Scanga designed this cool piece.
Finally, the coolest one, and the pics don’t do it justice. There is a set of racks and when you look from just the right angle the pieces create the Wichita Flag. It was designed by Gordon Schmidt.
I hope, with the new stadium, new team, and Wichita will have a lot of fans filling the stands and enjoying this great venue. Play Ball!
Check out some of Wichita’s other public arts. I like to call it, How Great Our Art.