Kenosha Kingfish sold to new ownership group

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The Kenosha Kingfish, a Northwoods League baseball team, has been sold by its original ownership group to a new group owned by former St. Paul Saints general manager Bill Fanning and real estate developer and investor Mike Zoellner.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

The Northwoods League is a summer league for college baseball players. It is the same league that the Lakeshore Chinooks play in. The Chinooks, who play at Kapco Park in Mequon, were sold last year.

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The Kingfish were sold by Big Top Sports + Entertainment, an ownership group consisting of Steve Schmitt, Vern Stenman and Conor Caloia. That group launched the Kingfish in 2014.

The sale of the Kingfish is pending the transfer of the team’s lease at Simmons Field and the accompanying liquor license.

All current team personnel will stay on under the new ownership and day-to-day operations will continue to be run by team president, Steve Malliet, and general manager, Ryne Goralski, according to a news release from the team.

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Fanning and Zoellner have been friends since meeting in the first grade and played college baseball together. Fanning played minor league baseball and served as the general manager of the St. Paul Saints minor league baseball team for 12 years.

“We are extremely excited to be joining the Kenosha community with our purchase of the Kenosha Kingfish,” Fanning said in a news release. “Mike and I have been looking for the right situation to get back into baseball and looked at several teams over the past few years. Once we dug deeper into Kenosha’s baseball history and the Kingfish culture, we knew this was the right city and right team for us. We want to thank Big Top Baseball, Steve Schmitt, Vern Stenman, and Conor Caloia for their work in laying the foundation for success and setting a high bar for providing a fun, customer first, family atmosphere at Simmons Field. The current staff does a great job and we’re looking forward to working with them to continue the tradition of excellence that Kenosha has come to expect with the Kingfish. Opening day can’t come soon enough.”

“We would like to thank the greater Kenosha community for embracing the Kingfish and making us feel welcome since we first discussed the idea of bringing spectator baseball back to Simmons Field in 2012,” Schmitt, Stenman and Caloia said in a joint statement. “We appreciate the support of former Mayor Keith Bosman, current Mayor John Antaramian, the Common Council, the Kenosha Simmons Baseball Organization Board and all of the dedicated host families, corporate partners and season ticket holders. Without them, the Kingfish would not have been possible. We think Bill and Mike will be great caretakers of the Kingfish brand and we are excited to watch them lead the next chapter of baseball in Kenosha.”

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