New sports bar expected to open in August in old Baldwin City police station

When Niki Manbeck opens her new sports bar this summer in the old downtown Baldwin City police station, she plans to serve up a taste of Kauffman Stadium and other major-league ballparks.

Manbeck, who owns The Nook — a combination bookstore, coffee shop and bar at 703 Eighth St. in Baldwin City — said she is working on remodeling the old police station into the Bullpen sports bar. She said she expected it to be open later this summer.

“We’re shooting for the third week in August,” she said. “It’s a lot of work, but I have a lot of good friends helping me.”

Like most sports bars, the Bullpen will have plenty of big-screen TVs so that fans can watch their favorite teams. But Manbeck hopes the food will set her restaurant apart. She plans to serve a variety of hot dogs in the signature styles of all 30 major league ballparks — and that includes the style with mustard and sauerkraut that’s served at Kauffman Stadium, the home of the Kansas City Royals. The Bullpen will also serve such ballpark fare as pretzels, chili and nachos, she said.

Baldwin City Administrator Glenn Rodden said the city entered a five-year agreement with Manbeck to lease the former police station, 811 Eighth St., for $1,500 a month. Rodden said the Baldwin City Council decided to lease out the building as a new way to bring a business to the downtown area, which doesn’t have any vacant storefronts.

Before that decision was made, Rodden said he had explored renovating the 1,200-square-foot police station into a meeting room for the City Council. He had city architect Jay Zimmerschied inspect the building, which was divided into multiple smaller rooms and offices. Zimmerschied said there were two supporting interior columns that would have to stay, but that many of the walls inside the building could be removed. Manbeck said she is now working on opening up the interior space in the old station.

The Bullpen’s planned opening date coincides with the return of Baker University students to Baldwin City. That’s no accident, Manbeck said; she views Baker students as one of the Bullpen’s key customer segments based on what she learned at The Nook when people started venturing out to public places again after COVID-19 restrictions were lifted.

Manbeck opened The Nook in September 2019 with the idea that it would offer a relaxed atmosphere for those looking for a quiet place to gather downtown.

“I wanted it to be a place for professionals to read a book, play a board game or just visit,” she said. “It was to have a family atmosphere and be a place Baker professors could come after work. And that is what happened.”

But The Nook’s character changed last year when the Salt Mine, Baldwin City’s other bar, closed because of the pandemic and never reopened. Manbeck said its customers, including many Baker students, started coming to The Nook. She made some changes to accommodate the students, including extending weekend closing times from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m.

The opening of the Bullpen will provide students a bar that caters to them and allow The Nook to return to its relaxed atmosphere, she said.

More news could be coming on the downtown business front: Rodden said a business might open in another downtown building the city sold last month at auction. Ryan Niehoff bought the red brick barn on the northeast corner of Seventh and Indiana streets for its appraised value of $90,000 and planned to open a body shop in the building, Rodden said. Such a use would require the building be rezoned from its current commercial zoning, Rodden said.


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