Northern League heads for K.C.

By Alan Eskew
September 6, 2002

The Northern League is coming to Kansas City, Kan.

The Duluth-Superior Dukes will be moving next season to a new stadium near the Kansas Speedway, a two-year-old facility that hosts major NASCAR and Indy-type races.

Ground was broken in early September for the 4,500-seat, $12 million stadium in western Wyandotte County to house the new team, which will play in the Northern League Central Division.

Officials said the club would spend about $7 million on the stadium, while $5 million would be from sales tax revenue bonds, which are approved by the Kansas Legislature.

With the typically cold Midwest winters, it will be a rush to complete the stadium before the Northern League opens in late May. Club president and chief executive officer John Ehlert said the league would likely have the team open on the road so to provide for additional time to finish the stadium, which was designed by the Kansas City architectural firm Heinlein Schrock Stearns. The stadium will include suites, a grass berm and a picnic terrace.

The Dukes went 36-54 last season and were last in the league with a 1,150 average attendance. They are hopeful they can draw more than 200,000 for 45 home games in Kansas City. To reach those projected numbers, the club would have to sale out nearly every home game.

Northern League teams have a $90,000 salary cap.

“This is a summer job,” Ehlert said for the players.

Club officials said ticket prices would range from $5 to $9.50 with parking free. The club agreed to pay 50 cents for each ticket sold to the Wyandotte County Unified Government Parks and Recreation Department.

Ehlert indicated the club would have a different mascot than the Dukes in Kansas City.

With the Northern League moving into Kansas City, it appears doubtful the Frontier League would place a team in nearby Olathe, Kan. Two groups had considered Olathe as a potential site for an independent club, but details on a stadium, which had not been started, and who would pay for it had not been worked out.

There are no minor league clubs near Kansas City. Two of the closest are Royals' affiliates–Triple-A Omaha in the Pacific Coast League and Double-A Wichita in the Texas League.