- James Hilchen
Riverfront Stadium – Wichita Wind Surge
Photos by James Hilchen, Stadium Journey
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 4.29
Riverfront Stadium 275 S McLean Blvd Wichita, KS 67213
Year Opened: 2021 Capacity: 10,000
A New Team Blows Into Town
Riverfront Stadium in Wichita, Kansas, opened in 2021 and is home to the Wichita Wind Surge of the Texas League. To say the team has had a unique start would be an understatement. The franchise relocated from New Orleans and was ready to start the 2020 season in the Triple-A Pacific Coast League. That would not happen as the COVID-19 pandemic canceled the season. Then, before the 2021 season, minor league realignment saw the team moved from Triple-A to Double-A.
With the 2021 professional season delayed by a month, Riverfront Stadium opened on April 10, 2021, when the Wichita State Shockers defeated the University of Houston, 10-1. The Wind Surge made their debut at home on May 11, 2021, in a 3-2 loss to Amarillo.
The Wind Surge is the city’s first affiliated baseball team (Minnesota Twins) since the Wichita Wranglers. The Wranglers played from 1987-2007 at Lawrence-Dumont Stadium. The Wichita Wingnuts of the American Association would debut the following year and operate at the stadium until 2018 when the city decided to raze the ballpark to make room for Riverfront Stadium.
The Wind Surge takes their name, in part, from the fact that there always seems to be a breeze in Wichita.
Food & Beverage 4
The large choice of food is much more than would be expected. The basics are certainly covered between hot dogs and jumbos, chili cheese dogs, cheeseburgers, loaded fries, grilled cheese, etc. The prices range from $3.75 for the regular dog to $7.75 for the chili cheese dog. Tacos (chicken or steak) are a good option for $9.75 for 3 tacos. For the lighter eaters, a nice garden salad can be had for $8.50 or a veggie burger is $9.75.
One of your options behind home plate is Freddy’s Frozen Custard & Steakburgers. Freddy’s has locations throughout much of the states. In addition to their signature double steak burgers ($10.50), their custard, particularly their concretes (custard mixed with your choice of a litany of toppings) are a great choice ($7.50).
The snack options are also completely covered with everything from pretzels to peanuts and cotton candy to cookies. Most snacks run from about $3 to $5.
Coke products are your soda choice along with water, sports drinks, energy drinks, lemonade, and coffee. The ballpark offers 16-ounce cans of Bud Light, Coors Light, Modelo. Pseudo Sue Pale Ale is available for $8. Wine and other drinks are available throughout the park. Be sure to check out the left field bar for some microbrew options.
There are three entrances to the ballpark; the left field corner, the center field, and near the right field corner. Grass berms encompass the left field corner and most of the left field, with the only break being the home bullpen. Over the right field wall are the visiting bullpen and some nice rail seating, which allows a great view of the field.
A very nice feature at the ballpark is the seats. The seats are wider and there is a lot more legroom than your typical stadium. As someone 6’4” rarely, my legs aren’t wedged against the seat in front of me, but that wasn’t the case here and it was tremendous!
Stadium seating surrounds the playing surface from foul pole to foul pole except for the grass berm down the left field line. Concessions stretch throughout the open concourse which allows you to not miss a pitch if you are standing in line for something to eat or drink. Restrooms are spaced nicely throughout the ballpark and there is a mother’s lounge behind section 10, near home plate.
You can walk around the interior of the ballpark. In the outfield concourse, there is a bar in the left field, a kids play area sits behind the batter’s eye in the center field, and the team store and team officials are beyond the right field area.
The second deck includes the press box, suites, and two-party areas. The Fidelity Club (second deck down the third baseline) is a nice indoor area where you can watch the game. Numerous folks have bought season tickets there, but there are also tickets available for individual games.
If you have a suite or have tickets in the Homerun Deck, the seats are made of mesh rather than a traditional stadium seat. As such, the seats tend to stay up to as much as 20 degrees cooler, which is a huge perk on, particularly warm days.
The ballpark sits in a part of town that is a mix of commercial and residential and also sits next to the Arkansas River.
There is nothing as far as restaurants that are next to the ballpark but there are some very good options within a mile. The Delano Barbeque Company offers up some tasty BBQ and is located a few blocks away on W Douglas Ave. Down the street from Delano is Ruben’s Mexican Grill. You also have your regular mix of chain restaurants in the area.
If you are looking for a place to have a drink before or after the game, try the Vagabond Café on W Douglas. Some nice places to visit within about a mile of the ballpark include Exploration Place, which is a big science education center that kids will love. In the same area is the Wichita Art Museum and the Old Cowtown Museum.
For lodging, there is a Hyatt Regency right across the river, and plenty of nice hotels downtown including the Hilton Garden Inn.
The team is drawing well in its first year. Not having an established identity in town yet, there isn’t an abundance of established hardcore fans as there hasn’t been time for that to occur organically. But, the fans that are there are largely engaged in the game, appear to know the players, and spend more time watching the game than playing on their phones.
Getting to the ballpark is easy from Route 400. Once inside, one thing that is pleasant and noticeable is the concourses are very wide. Even with some beer carts and other concession carts in the concourse, there isn’t any congestion during the game. There are plenty of restrooms and there were no lines. For concessions, there were some lines on occasion, but with the plans in the works to add more (some with a more local flavor) vendors, this problem should be minimized in the coming years.
Riverfront Stadium is cashless. Cards are needed to purchase concessions and in the team store. If you only have cash, you can convert it to a debit card through what can be described as a reverse ATM. The good thing about it is the money doesn’t have to be spent at the park. If you have any leftovers, they can be spent anywhere credit/debit cards are accepted.
Return on Investment 5
There are three main seating sections. Seats on the grass berm are $10 for adults and $8 for kids aged 3-12. Field box seating (sections 1-21) is $15 and Boot Barn Homerun Deck (right field) tickets are $20. There is some free parking across Arkansas River, or you can pay $5 to park next to the ballpark. Between that and average concession prices, you can have a good time at a great park for a very reasonable price.
One point goes to something that hasn’t happened yet. The team offices sit behind the right field concourse. There is a large area of the building that is currently empty, but the plan is to add a Kansas baseball museum that will hopefully be ready by Opening Day, 2022.
An extra point goes to the wider and more spaced-out seats. Being comfortable makes it far easier to enjoy the game.
The ballpark celebrates the city and its huge aerospace industry through art. Throughout the park, you will see little reminders including lights in the form of jet engines as you enter the park, riveted bars that look similar to a plane wing, and much more.
Above home plate on the second deck is a nice tribute to Lou Schwechheimer, the former owner of the Wind Surge. Schwechheimer never got to see his team take the field in Wichita as he passed away from Covid in July of 2020.
A nice feature that will be utilized more in the future is a podcasting area that can also be used for live newscasts and other features. The area faces the road (which is closed during games) in front of the team store and offices, which opens up all sorts of fun possibilities.
In its first year, Riverfront Stadium is already a great ballpark. With the plans that are in place, it will only get better in the coming seasons. Good food, great seats, and an aesthetically pleasing stadium allow for a fun time for fans. For baseball traveling fanatics, be sure to add this one to your list; it won’t disappoint!