It's a breeze: Wind Surge blow into Wichita
Wichita's current affair is a current of air. The Wind Surge have blown into town.
In 2020, after a 12-season absence, Minor League Baseball is returning to Kansas' largest city. As of Wednesday evening, that team has a name: the Wichita Wind Surge -- Triple-A affiliate of the Miami Marlins -- relocated from New Orleans, where they had been known as the Baby Cakes.
The Wind Surge will play in a brand new ballpark, which is being constructed on the same site where Lawrence-Dumont Stadium once stood. That venerable facility, built in 1934 and demolished in 2018, hosted a variety of professional baseball teams over a span of more than eight decades. Those teams including the Aeros of the Triple-A American Association (1970-84) and, most recently, the Wranglers. That Texas League entity departed following the 2007 season; from 2008-18, Wichita was home to an independent league team called the Wing Nuts.
The Wind Surge name was announced after a long period of speculation. Over the past three months, the team adopted temporary social media identities ranging from River Riders to the 29ers to, inevitably, the Linemen (a nod to Glen Campbell's iconic "Wichita Lineman"). Ultimately, the Pacific Coast League club went with a name and aesthetic far removed from anything that had been hinted.
Wind Surge assistant general manager Bob Moullette said Wichita is at a unique point in its history and that the new ballpark is a core aspect of a period of rapid growth and reinvention. The team name, in short, is an indication of the city "exponentially surging forward."
"Wichita is the air capital of the world, and we're paying homage to the wind. It's a mighty force," Moullette said. "It's powerful to us, and timeless."
Moullette went on to quote from the team's brand statement, which reads, in part, that "Our visual identity embraces Pegasus, an eternal symbol of aspiration, free spirit and a daring, determined attitude -- harnessing the wind and surging forward."
The brand statement goes on to note that the Wind Surge's navy blue and red color scheme is "deeply rooted in the visual culture of baseball." The "yellow gold" color that frames the primary logo, as well as an alternate logo inspired by the Wichita city flag, references "sunflowers, wheat and summer sunsets."
The Wind Surge logo set was created by Todd Radom, an independent graphic designer who specializes in sports branding.
"I've known [Wind Surge owner] Lou Schwechheimer for quite some time, and he felt that I was the right guy for the job," said Radom, who has worked with a wide variety of Minor League teams over his nearly 30-year career. "It was an amazingly collaborative process. It doesn't always work out that way, but this one really was. We had wraparound holistic discussions about all kinds of things as it related to the brand and the stadium, and I always felt like I was part of the team. This was a hands-on effort, and I think the results reflect that in a very good way."
Radom said that, at the beginning of the process, he explored branding ideas related to Wichita's rich Minor League past.
"I think the consensus was that this is a city that is looking forward. It's a young city in a lot of ways, dreaming big dreams and making things happen. That led to thinking about something energetic, moving forward, not focused on anything retro.
"Some team names lend themselves well to imagery, and this was not one of those," he continued. "Forces of nature are not often easy to depict. But in keeping with the Wichita themes and attributes, the people there and what it was all about, the word that kept coming up was 'aspirational.' That's the idea of this pegasus; a winged horse takes it back to Wranglers and horses in some way, but it's about moving forward. And the players at Triple-A, they are so close to the Majors, it's about moving up for them as well."
The ultimate goal, for Radom and the Wichita front office, was to create something that felt timeless.
"[Radom] knew how seriously we wanted to take this and was confident that he could create an iconic brand," Moullette said, "one that would not just be there for 10 years but for the duration of our [stadium] lease, 30 years. And then, hopefully, another 30 years after that."
Moullette is one of several high-ranking Wichita front office members who moved with the team from its previous home of New Orleans. When New Orleans rebranded prior to the 2017 season, it changed its name from Zephyrs to Baby Cakes. That irreverent moniker and corresponding logo set, designed by Brandiose, is a far cry from the Wind Surge's more traditional and sober-minded aesthetic.
"I think we went 180 degrees from the Baby Cakes," Moullette said. "We understand that we're the only [Minor League Baseball] team in the state of Kansas. It's powerful to us. This is a baseball town. The stadium is going to be beautiful. We've got a big footprint in the downtown area. In New Orleans, there was so much stuff going on, so Baby Cakes was a way to separate ourselves from the clutter from all that there was to do. Here in Wichita, we plan on being the most affordable and fun place in town, and we wanted to capitalize on that."
So Wind Surge, it is, representing forward progress and positive momentum.
"This is an iconic moment," Moullette said. "Hopefully, we'll be able to move this city in a different direction along with everything else that's going on."
Benjamin Hill is a reporter for MiLB.com and writes Ben's Biz Blog. Follow Ben on Twitter @bensbiz.
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