The televised impeachment inquiry started of with some damning testimony and big news on Wednesday, but here in our humble prairie hometown the story of the day was about baseball. Wichita’s getting a new team in a fancy new ballpark next spring, and city officials and their business partners announced with much ballyhoo on Wednesday that it will be called the Wichita Wind Surge.
Kansas does get a lot of wind, but according to the Dictionary.com site a “wind surge” is a wind-induced rise in the water level of an inland expanse of water, and can causing flooding if the tidal cycle is right, which has nothing to do with Wichita, which is conspicuously lacking any nearby expanses of water. Over the past century or so the city’s baseball teams have mostly had aviation-related names to tout its status as the “Air Capital of the World,” such as Pilots and Aviators and Aeros and the most recent Wingnuts, but somebody downtown decided that “Wind Surge” made more sense.
Everyone in town, ourselves very much included, absolutely hates the name. Our Facebook page is full of complaints about it, the local television stations are can only dismayed men and women on the street, everybody at Kirby’s Beer Store agrees the name is awful, and flatulence jokes ae already afloat and a protest petition is already up on the internet. The logo features a pegasus flying through a stylized “W,” which also doesn’t make any apparent sense, and everyone also hates that.
The new team was controversial to begin with. For 80 years watched its professional baseball at the Lawrence-Dumont Stadium, a charmingly old-fashioned ballpark nestled along the Arkansas River with a view that showed off the downtown skyline during a hot summer sunset, but some big bucks developers sold City Hall on the idea that some tax abatements and other subsidies would pay off for everyone if they tore it down and built a modern-looking new ballpark. They promised to promote Wichita from Double-A status all the way to Triple-A, which appealed to the class conscious types down at City Hall, and to replace the ruggedly independent Wingnuts with a major-league affiliated team with players that might wind up in the majors, which might appeal to the so-called fans who never showed up for those fabulous Wingnuts games.
The bargain included some sweetheart deals on several lots of the Delano neighborhood, which was long a charmingly old-fashioned white ghetto but has lately becoming a gentrified entertainment district for the monied less daring young hipsters, and there was a lot of local grousing about that. More grousing followed a suspicious deal that the city cut to expensively overhaul its water system, and Wichita wound up voting the mayor out office in a recent election that had a bigger than usual turnout. A couple of our Facebook friends contend that the out-going mayor chose the name as his final revenge on an ungrateful electorate, and the theory seems plausible.
Even in this age of political polarization, though, sports has somehow once again brought a community together. The left is fed up with all the public-private partnerships the city keeps cooking up because they distrust the private sector, the right objects because of an aversion to government, the sensible center is also skeptical of what’s going on, and everybody hates the new team name. Not since the Wichita State University Wheatshockers were in the Final Four has Wichita been so unified.