Last updated on May 13th, 2019 at 02:33 pm
Oak Creek-Franklin Joint School District boosters are hoping to raise about $800,000, most in corporate donations, for improvements to Knights Community Stadium, home of the Oak Creek High School varsity football team.
The main component of the ambitious plan is the installation of a $600,000 FieldTurf playing surface similar to the surfaces at Camp Randall Stadium at the University of Wisconsin in Madison and the Green Bay Packers’ practice fields.
The Oak Creek project also would include construction of modern restroom facilities, a new concession stand and meeting rooms for the teams. In addition, the upgrades would feature new lighting and sound systems.
Boosters hope to have the fundraising and construction for the stadium improvements complete in time for the 2007 football season.
The project is being planned after the school district completed its construction of new bleachers and a new press box at the football stadium. The Oak Creek grand stands now have seating for about 3,400 people with about 2,400 on the home team side of the field and about 1,000 on the visiting side.
The new grandstands replaced some 40-year-old wooden bleachers. That project cost the school district about $600,000, according to high school athletic director Jim Andrus.
School boosters plan to raise most of the money to pay for the new project by selling advertising space on the football field. A corporate sponsor could get its logo painted in one of the end zones for about $220,000 or a smaller logo on the 20 yard line for about $50,000. The logos would stay on the field for the entire 15-year life cycle of the FieldTurf surface.
"We thought this was a unique way to get a state-of-the-art facility that can be used more and not cost the property taxpayers any money," said Steve Scaffidi, a member of the Oak Creek stadium project committee.
The corporate logos on the field would be seen by spectators attending games in the stadium and by television viewers when local news programs use helicopter cameras to show highlights of the football games.
Many travelers also would see the logos on the football field.
"Planes (from nearby Mitchell International Airport) fly over the field every day," Scaffidi said.
One area business already is planning to make a major contribution for the Oak Creek stadium project. Braeger Automotive Group has tentatively agreed to donate at least $50,000 a year for five years to the stadium project.
During the five-year period, Braeger will contribute $250 for every car sold to an Oak Creek resident, if the total exceeds $50,000. If the total is less than $50,000, then Braeger will contribute $50,000.
In exchange, the field will be renamed Braeger Field, and the company will have its logo displayed in one or both of the end zones, said Todd Reardon, owner of Braeger Companies of Wisconsin.
The stadium will still be called Knights Community Stadium.
"The attorneys are working on the details right now," Reardon said. "There will be significant signage on the field."
Braeger believes strongly in giving back to the community, Reardon said. The company made a donation to West Allis Western Days to save the parade, which was on the verge of being cancelled earlier this year. The company also contributes to area schools and other community groups.
"That’s just part of our marketing to target communities and see what their needs might be," Reardon said. "Our thought is this is what businesses do in communities. The citizens of a community support the business, and the business has to give back to the community. It’s a circle."
Reardon wants to move the Braeger Chevrolet, Chrysler and Ford dealerships on South 27th Street in Milwaukee to a 40-acre parcel he owns on South 27th Street in Oak Creek across the street from the Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Co. complex.
However, Oak Creek officials rejected those plans, saying they do not want an auto dealership there.
Braeger backed off on its plans to contribute to the Oak Creek stadium project while trying to gain approval for the dealership development, Reardon said. Now that those plans have been shot down, the company is moving forward with the stadium contribution.
"We started working with the stadium over a year ago," Reardon said. "We cooled as we got involved with (the proposed development), because we did not want to have the appearance that we were buying votes.
"I don’t have any urgency to move," Reardon said. "I’m just going to wait and see what happens. I have developers contacting me all the time with sites," he said.
So far, about $4,000 to $5,000 has been raised for the stadium project. Oak Creek boosters are also hoping to receive in-kind donations of construction materials and labor for the project from area contractors, Scaffidi said.
Changing the playing surface to FieldTurf will enable the stadium to be used for more than just football games and one soccer game a year, as it is now, Scaffidi and Andrus said. The artificial surface needs less maintenance and can handle frequent use, unlike natural grass. With a FieldTurf surface, the stadium could be used for more soccer games, youth football, physical education classes, community concerts and marching band competitions.
FieldTurf is considered a major upgrade over original versions of artificial turf, which featured much harder surfaces and were blamed for an increased number of injuries.
"(FieldTurf) is not like the old carpet they just rolled out over concrete," Scaffidi said.
Oak Creek football fans would probably appreciate the addition of modern restroom facilities at the stadium. The field currently features portable toilets.
Oak Creek games regularly attract large crowds, about 3,000 fans per game, Andrus said, to see one of the top high school football programs in the state.
Several Oak Creek players have been recruited by top college programs in recent years, including linebacker Travis Beckum, who was the top recruit signed by the University of Wisconsin this year.
"It has kind of a college atmosphere," Scaffidi said.
Businesses interested in contributing toward the Oak Creek stadium project can contact Andrus at (414) 768-6210.
One aspect of fundraising plans for the Oak Creek football stadium upgrade may have complications.
Boosters hope to raise $220,000 from corporations interested in having their logo painted in one of the end zones at Knights Community Stadium. Boosters also hope to raise $50,000 by selling smaller corporate logos to be painted on the 20 yard lines.
However, the selling of corporate logos on high school football fields appears to be in violation of National Federation of High School rules.
The federation’s rules state that "advertising and commercial markings on the field are prohibited."
Oak Creek High School athletic director Jim Andrus said he did not know of the rules until he was told about them by Small Business Times.
The Oak Creek-Franklin Joint School District will make an appeal to the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletics Association (WIAA), in hopes of gaining approval to put corporate logos on the field.
"That’s something we’ll have to look into and get cleaned up," Andrus said. "Obviously, that is a hurdle. We’ll see what we can do and we’ll go from there. If that’s an issue, I’m sure we can have signs around the stadium. If (corporate logos on the field) can’t happen, we’ll work around it."
– Andrew Weiland
July 8, 2005, Small Business Times, Milwaukee, WI