Summer and Lawrence-Dumont Stadium go together like hot dogs and mustard. From the Wingnuts to the NBC World Series, the thwack of bats hitting baseballs and the roar of the crowd reverberates through the season.
But recently other sounds and crowds have filled the stadium — the thrum of bands, the gleam of movies filling the video board, the laughter of corporate team building on the playing field.
“We’ve always done some entertainment things, but these last couple of years we’ve started to venture out more, and we’ve started holding more corporate events here,” says Brian Turner, assis- tant general manager of the Wichita Wingnuts.
Nate Robertson, one of the Wingnut’s owners who played baseball professionally for 16 years, is a Wichita native who moved back to town. “He and the other owners challenged us to come up with something to give back to the community in a big way, rather than just a donation here or a sponsorship there or small ticket giveaways.”
So in April the Wingnuts threw open their gates to 50 local non-profit organizations and sponsored a massive benefit concert headlined by The Band Perry, which poured $560,000 back into the community from a one-day event. “We sold 7,300 of 7,500 available tickets,” says Turner. “It was a good night for us.”
The fun continues on July 3 when the organiza- tion brings Nitro Circus to the stadium. A team of death-defying dirt bike and motocross fanatics will take over the stadium for one day, filling it with towering ramps and pyrotechnics as part of their worldwide tour. Known to pack out 60,000-seat arenas in Europe and Australia, Turner expects a raucous audience of 8,000 - 10,000.
Looking ahead to 2017, Turner and his administrative team are already planning next April’s benefit concert, where they’re swinging for an even bigger audience of 10,000. Two more concerts in the summer and fall will round out the schedule.
All the extracurricular activities aren’t slowing things down on the baseball side. Far from it. The team has all the bases covered for “fun, cool, crazy” promotions during games this summer. This month alone there’s Christmas in July, complete with an ugly Christmas sweater jersey auction, David Peralta bobblehead giveaway night and the Famous San Diego Chicken.
Players with personality
And don’t forget thrilling baseball. This season attendance at home games is up from past years. “We’ve got a lot of talent on our team,” says Turner. “We’ve got six guys that are former major league players, and quite a few that have been in Double-A, Triple-A — high levels.”
The team is going through a transition now, with new manager Pete Rose, Jr. taking the helm, but some things won’t change: particularly the trademark Wingnuts combination of ability and heart.
“It’s not only talent,” says Turner, “but its personality — if they’re good in the clubhouse, if they’re good with kids. We’ll continue to bring in players that have the personality that fits what we’ve built here for Wichita.”
Wingnuts July highlights
JULY 3 — Nitro Circus dirt bikes and motocross
JULY 4, 18, 25 — Kwikshop Dollar Days with post-game fireworks on the 4th. Score dollar general admission vouchers at area Kwikshops.
JULY 6, 13, 27 — Wayback Wednesdays
JULY 14 — Thirsty Thursday with dollar domestics and sodas
JULY 16 — David Peralta bobblehead giveaway. Peralta played for the Wingnuts in 2012 and was their first player to make it to the major leagues with the Arizona Diamondbacks.
JULY 17, 24 — Family Fun Days include Family Four Packs, face painters, balloon art, kids run the bases and play catch on the field after games
JULY 22 — Christmas in July featuring Santawith a sleigh and reindeer, post-game fireworks
JULY 23 — The Famous San Diego Chicken