The city of Waukesha will hold a public information meeting tonight over a controversial proposal to partner with a sports firm to build a for-profit baseball facility at Frame Park.
[caption id="attachment_341273" align="alignright" width="385"] Rendering of how the baseball field at Frame Park would be converted into a ballpark to accommodate a Northwoods League team.[/caption]
The city is considering a 20-year lease agreement with Northwoods League team owner Big Top Baseball that would convert the existing Frame Park baseball field into a 2,500-seat baseball stadium that would include a scoreboard, hospitality space, a press box and concession space.
The Northwoods League includes top college baseball players and has teams in Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, Michigan, North Dakota and Ontario, Canada.
Local teams include the Lakeshore Chinooks in Mequon, which started in 2012, and the Kenosha Kingfish.
Under the lease agreement, Big Top Baseball would host up to 40 baseball games per year at Frame Park. Minor league, collegiate or professional-level soccer games would also be hosted at the field.
Big Top Baseball would pay $500,000 upfront and $150,000 per year. The company would also pay an annual contribution to Frame Park of $25,000 per year for park improvements outside the boundaries of the baseball stadium and an additional $2,000 per event above the base amount.
Waukesha would create a $3.8 million to $4.2 million tax incremental finance district to cover the upfront costs that would be paid for with lease payments, according to the city.
“No general fund tax dollars are going into the stadium enhancement project,” according to city documents. “The city will spend more tax dollars on Frame Park over the next 20 years without the proposed deal than with the proposed deal.”
Under the proposal, Carroll University, Waukesha North High School and Waukesha South High School baseball teams would continue to play at the facility and current city events including National Night Out and Fiesta Waukesha would continue at the park.
The project is similar to a plan that was approved by a 10-4 vote in 2008 by the Common Council but did not proceed because of a funding shortage by the development group. The city and Big Top have been in discussions since last year when the sports firm said it wanted to add a Northwoods League team in Waukesha.
Previous public meetings on the proposal have drawn dozens of Waukesha residents who oppose the plan and want to keep Frame Park as it is.
Other opponents have said they are concerned with the financial viability of the project, parking, lost tranquility of the park, alcohol consumption and safety, according to two Facebook pages that have been created to oppose the project, Watching Waukesha and Save Frame Park.
“We have no negative feelings toward baseball, just not at Frame Park,” according to a Facebook post.
Sandy Hamm, who created the Watching Waukesha page, said the addition of 2,500 people for ballgames and up to 4,000 people for concerts, would be a huge disruption at Frame Park.
“They say they are increasing the footprint of the ball diamond 10 percent,” Hamm said. “The lifestyle footprint is incredibly different.”
Big Top Baseball has said Frame Park is the only park in the city that is large enough for Northwoods League baseball.
The city will hold an informational meeting on the project at 6:30 today at City Hall. The Common Council will vote on the proposal Feb. 22.