Reports: New Orleans AAA baseball franchise could be on way to Wichita, replaced by AA team

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Shrine on Airline

After 26 years of Class AAA baseball in the Crescent City, New Orleans may be moving down a level in the very near future.

Multiple reports indicate that the local AAA franchise – known as the Baby Cakes – could be on the move to Wichita, Kansas, and that a Class AA Southern League team could move to the Shrine on Airline. The timing of the moves is not yet clear, though The Advocate reported Wednesday night the move would not occur until the team’s current lease expires after the 2021 season.

The Wichita Eagle confirmed, via multiple sources, that Wichita officials are in discussions to bring the AAA team. The Eagle reported that a deal is “close to being done.” KSN in Wichita is reporting an announcement could come on Thursday.

Cakes vice president and general manager Cookie Rojas told WGNO’s Ed Daniels that the team will play at the Shrine in 2019, but would not comment any further. The lease has an option to extend for another five years.

Earlier Wednesday, the website Ballpark Digest reported that Wichita “has reached an agreement with a Class AAA Pacific Coast League team to move there. As part of the move, the PCL ownership group would buy an existing Class AA Southern League team and move it to their present market. It sounds like the arrangements on the (Minor League Baseball) side are close to final, and we expect an announcement as soon as Thursday.”

The longtime home of professional baseball in Wichita, Lawrence Dumont Stadium, is being demolished to make way for a new stadium which could open as soon as the spring of 2020.

Wichita had a Class AA team in the Texas League from 1987-2007 before the franchise was moved to Northwest Arkansas. Since then, it has had an independent – or unaffiliated – team in the American Association, known as the Wichita Wingnuts.

New Orleans was last in the 16-team Pacific Coast League in average attendance in 2018, averaging 3,827 fans for 66 openings. The total attendance of 252,614 was easily the lowest in the 22 years it has played in Metairie (it played from 1993-96 at the University of New Orleans). The previous season low at the Shrine was 324,324 in 2004.

The Cakes were the only team in the PCL not to draw a sellout crowd for its Independence Day fireworks game this July. Each PCL team has a home game on either July 3 or July 4.

In its first two seasons in Metairie, the then-Zephyrs eclipsed the 500,000 mark in total attendance and drew more than 400,000 for five of its first six seasons at the new park.

When the 2019 season begins in April, only four PCL teams will play in older ballparks than the Shrine – Tacoma (opened in 1959), Iowa (1992), Salt Lake (1994) and a newly relocated team in San Antonio (1994), which is moving from Colorado Springs.

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Lenny Vangilder

Lenny Vangilder

Sales/Content/Production

Lenny has been involved in college athletics since the early 1980s, when he began working Tulane University sporting events while still attending Archbishop Rummel High School. He continued that relationship as a student at Loyola University, where he graduated in 1987. For the next 11 years, Vangilder worked in the sports information offices at Southwestern Louisiana (now UL-Lafayette) and Tulane;…

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