After more than 20 years at the "Shrine on Airline," the New Orleans Baby Cakes will say goodbye to the Crescent City and head north to Wichita, Kansas, after this season.
A major reason for the move is the venues themselves. Wichita broke ground on an estimated $75 million new baseball stadium this year. The ballpark will be built for the future with a focus on a variety of seating options.
The stadium is expected to open in 2020. The park will include more than 6,000 fixed seats, but have a capacity over 10,000 with picnic areas, terrace seating and the party deck factored in, according to Baseball America.
The architects' idea is to allow fans to see the game from different angles, not just be glued to a single seat. Besides its modern approach to seating, the new Wichita ballpark will include video rooms, player lounges and a large player-training area underneath the stands.
The Baby Cakes' current home in Metairie was built in 1997 and has served as the home of the Baby Cakes since. The $21 million ballpark was part of a capital-projects bill that included the Smoothie King Center and a state-of-the-art practice facility for the New Orleans Saints.
Despite including a swimming pool and two hot tubs, the shrine is among the oldest stadiums in minor league baseball. It would likely require several million dollars in renovations before it could house a successor to the Baby Cakes. The team's lease expires in 2021, but the team is in talks to find a way out early.
The team has registered losing seasons in 11 of the past 12 seasons and continually ranked low in attendance.
At home, the Baby Cakes finished 21st out of the 30 teams in Triple-A in 2017 attendance, according to Ballpark Digest.
New Orleans’ Triple-A franchise arrived in 1993. Then known as the Zephyrs, they played their home games at Privateer Park on the UNO campus until moving to the stadium on Airline Drive in Metairie in 1997, serving at various times over the years as an affiliate and talent farm for MLB’s Milwaukee Brewers, Houston Astros, Washington Nationals, New York Mets and Miami Marlins.