These are people pushing toward a better Wichita. You may know some, others you won't. But these are who you should be paying attention to.
These are the stories of those leading the push toward a better Wichita.
Some you will know, others you won't. Either way, these people deserve our attention.
The wait is over. After 14 years, Minor League Baseball is back in Wichita. On May 11, despite a 13-month delay and an affiliation change, the Wichita Wind Surge will finally play their first home game at the new Riverfront Stadium. Hot dogs will be served. The beer will flow. Entertainment will be on full display on and off the field.
Only a few people may be more excited for the home opener than Katie Woods, director of marketing and community engagement for the Wichita Wind Surge. For Woods, the Wind Surge is the entire reason she moved to Kansas from California.
“The ballpark and the team is what brought me to Wichita,” said Woods. “I was looking for my next opportunity across the country in Minor League Baseball and this position with the Wind Surge just absolutely drew me in. The fact that it's a brand new ballpark and the team has never taken the field before. I love what Wichita is looking to do in this city to continue to revitalize and grow. The idea to make this whole downtown area and the riverfront a centerpiece of the city, it was all just something I wanted to be a part of.”
Woods has worked in Minor League Baseball for more than 10 years. Most recently, she served as the assistant general manager for the Lancaster JetHawks. As the director of marketing and community engagement, she oversees radio and TV partnerships, the team website and social media. She also works with local nonprofits and other partners to create programs focused on fostering the community. It’s that work with local organizations and residents that continues to keep Woods in the MiLB industry.
“Working in sports is more of a lifestyle than it is a job,” stated Woods. “It's a lot of nights. It's a lot of weekends. It's a commitment to work in sports. In Minor League Baseball, you really get to dive into the community and what's important to them. For me, that makes everything worthwhile. I found a real appreciation for that and a real passion for that.”
BORN TO BALL
While her appreciation and passion for MiLB came from working with the community, her love for sports has been lifelong. Woods’ father was a high school and college basketball coach. Her weekends were spent at open gyms. She washed jerseys and folded team laundry. She practically grew up at the gym.
“My family likes to tell the story of when I was six months old,” Woods said. “My grandma called and wanted to know where I was. Of course, I was at practice with my dad.”
Everywhere Woods has gone, success has followed. She’s been named Female Executive of the Year three different times and grew attendance in Lancaster by 11% from 2018 to 2019. But for Woods, it’s not the results, it’s the experiences she’s created and shared with her team.
“For me, my biggest accomplishments have been the events that I've been able to be a part of,” shared Woods. “I've been a part of hosting two different All-Star Games. I've been with a team that won a league championship. I’ve put programs in place that are still there 10 years later. Being able to really create those events and work with staff that are so brilliant and creative and put together these amazing things… that's been the best part of my career.”
THE WORD ON WICHITA
When Woods isn’t prepping for the Wind Surge’s inaugural season, she’s exploring her new city. She’s made an activities list comprised of recommendations as well as her own research. The amount of local offerings has provided her with plenty of opportunities to visit different pockets of Wichita. She already has some favorite restaurants and has been impressed with one type of shop in particular.
“I've really enjoyed the coffee houses in Wichita,” said Woods. “I've tried a handful of different ones. They’re all so different and so good. I also love that everything is so close. I’m excited to bring people here and show them the ballpark, the restaurants and the seventh-largest zoo in the country. I learned that stat from the visitors guide.”
More than landmarks, shops and other physical structures, Wood has learned about the personality of the city and the people in it – one she is hoping to harness to create distinct and lasting experiences at the stadium.
“Being here even for a short time, it's obvious the pride people have in this city,” stated Woods. “We really want to celebrate that. We want to celebrate the things that makes Wichita unique, the people who contribute to this community. And so we're going to really put a spotlight on ICT this year with our ICT Nights.”
ICT Nights will be a part of a larger effort to make every night at the ballpark different and exciting. During the first season, attendees will experience theme nights, giveaways, promotions and specials – allowing fans to experience the brand new ballpark in all its glory.
“I’ve been in Minor League Baseball for over 10 years,” said Woods. “I've been to probably 40 Minor League ballparks across the country and I have never seen a ballpark like Riverfront Stadium. There's parts of the ballpark where you can stand and you can look one direction and you're looking at the ballpark. You look the other direction and you're looking at the river. I get to go to this ballpark every day and call it work. I get to create these experiences for fans. I get to design bobbleheads. I get to pick theme nights. I get to share with everyone what the team is doing. And I get to call that work. It's just such an amazing experience that I can't imagine doing anything else.”