Last updated on February 17th, 2023 at 03:42 pm
The $290 million in state money that Gov. Tony Evers is proposing to provide for repairs and upgrades to American Family Field would cover a wide range of projects from upgraded umpire and seasonal employee locker rooms to roof repairs to upgrades of field and club level suites.
Evers unveiled a proposal this week that would provide the Southeast Wisconsin Professional Baseball Park District with a one-time $290 million cash payment. The cash, combined with $70 million in existing reserves and interest earned on the cash would be used to pay for upgrades and repairs to the stadium the district is required to make under its lease with the Milwaukee Brewers.
In exchange, the Brewers would sign a lease through 2043 and agree to a non-relocation agreement. The team would also commit to making its own discretionary investments in the stadium.
The proposal still needs to make it through the Legislature, which is controlled by Republicans. Assembly Speaker Robin Vos and the leaders of the powerful Joint Finance Committee criticized Evers’ approach to announcing the plan, arguing there was a lack of collaboration with Republican lawmakers.
After accounting for inflation and contingencies, a report by Brentwood, Tennessee-based Venue Solutions Group that was commissioned by the Brewers puts the total cost for repairs and upgrades at $428 million for work taking place through 2040. The capital plan would have a little more than 25% of the spending occur in the next three years and 61% of it occur by 2030, which is when the Brewers’ current lease at the ballpark ends.
The pacing of the projects outlined in the VSG report suggests the stadium district would need annual growth of its reserves of about 2.75% to cover the $428 million capital plan and a little more than 3.2% to account for the additional $20 million in contingency planned for by the Brewers and the Evers administration.
The cost to build an entirely new facility like American Family Field, that meets Major League Baseball design standards, has 40,000 seats and a retractable roof, would be $1.55 billion to $1.6 billion if construction started in 2022, according to the VSG report.
A separate report from Denver-based CAA Icon, commissioned by Wisconsin’s Department of Administration, puts the total for repairs and upgrades needed in upcoming years at the stadium at $540 million to $604 million.
The CAA report attributes the range of potential costs to differences in methodology. Where the VSG report used general allowances to identify project costs, the CAA report went off of actual square footage figures or numbers of items to be replaced. The high end of the range assumes all of an area would need updating while the lower uses figures specified by VSG.
The Brewers and state officials have agreed to work with the VSG report and its lower stadium upgrade cost estimates in negotiations leading up to Evers’ proposal.
The team has identified roof maintenance, infrastructure, HVAC, mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems, boilers, vertical transportation and fire suppression as areas of top priority in the report.
VSG allocated $105 million to architecture and interiors, $99.8 million to technology, $62.5 million to structure, $55.8 million to mechanical, electrical, plumbing and fire protection, $37 million to roofs, $17 million for concession infrastructure, and $16 million for vertical transportation. Another $34.5 million is allocated to miscellaneous projects.
Developing a capital plan for American Family Field is complicated by requirements in the lease. The stadium district, for example, has to pay for improvements that are present in 75% of all other MLB ballparks.
“While certain improvements will clearly leave the Ballpark below the applicable standard if not addressed (particularly as a number of MLB ballparks are being renovated and newly built), it can also be difficult to predict how broadly and how quickly trends among MLB ballparks may evolve,” the report says.
The lease also requires the district to pay for capital or infrastructure items “consistent with the replacement capital items of the top 25% of all Major League ballparks.”
Here are some of the major projects included in the capital plan for American Family Field along with their price tag in 2022 dollars:
Architecture and Interior
- Club level upgrades – $11.5 million
- Service level group space – $5.3 million
- Replace translucent panels in outfield – $5.3 million
- General concourse infrastructure replacement, field and loge levels – $3.5 million each
- Field level upgrades – $3.4 million
- Infrastructure replacement at east and west corner concourses – $2.8 million
- Replace insulated glazing as needed – $2.5 million
- Renovate press box – $1.5 million
- Replace fixed seats – $1.2 million
Mechanical, electrical, plumbing and fire
- Restroom renovations, all levels – $8.8 million
- Interior lighting – $4 million
- Complete building automation system replacement – $3 million
- Main electrical substation transformers and switchgear – $3 million
- LED sports lighting – $2 million
- Structural steel recoating – $15 million
- Parking lot resurfacing and repair – $9.3 million
- DHS Safety Act compliance – $5 million
- Replace pedestrian plazas – $4.6 million
- Video displays and video production – $12 million
- Expand broadcast compound to on-site satellite location – $4 million
- Replace public area televisions – $1.8 million
- Video surveillance, cameras – $1.5 million
- Upgrade broadcast infrastructure – $1.4 million
- Escalator modernization and safety upgrade – $8 million
- Elevator modernization and safety upgrade – $2.8 million
- Work on retractable roof – $8.8 million
- Fiberglass roof panels at roof line – $6.1 million
- Concessions equipment – $3.4 million
- Refrigeration – $3.3 million
- MLB mandates – $15 million
- Government mandates – $15 million