After dropping plans for a baseball stadium in Frame Park, Northwoods League team owner Big Top Baseball is back in Waukesha with a more ambitious proposal at a new park.
[caption id="attachment_341273" align="alignright" width="370"] A rendering of Big Top's original proposal at Frame Park.[/caption]
The city is in discussions with Big Top to build a new stadium at Mindiola Park. The $12 million plan is more than double the cost of the $4.7 million proposal at Frame Park, which was put on hold in mid-February when city and Big Top officials publicly announced they wouldn’t be moving forward.
Under the new proposal, the city would contribute up to $12 million in infrastructure costs, which includes the development of two to four full-size artificial turf soccer fields and additional parking.
The project's price tag has gone up because there is no infrastructure at the park and the land is a former landfill, said Kevin Lahner, city administrator.
The previous proposal drew criticism from some community members who were concerned with the financial liability of the project, parking, lost tranquility of the park and safety.
"The area has been seeded with grass and is currently used by the Parks Department for recreation games," Lahner said. "I believe that overall, we have been responsive to the concerns of the community.
Waukesha would utilize an existing Tax Increment Financing district to pay for the project. The city has determined that this project would be eligible for TIF funds, Lahner said.
The previous proposal included Big Top paying $500,000 upfront and $150,000 per year. The company would have also paid 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.
No such agreement has been reached for Mindiola Park.
"Payment for the stadium is not buttoned up," Lahner said. "There are a couple of mechanics to the financial deal we are still working out."
According to the city's website, Waukesha would give Big Top approximately 6 acres for private investment. In return, Big Top would construct a 2,500-seat baseball and soccer facility and secure a Northwoods team franchise, which would play 36 home games per year at the park, plus playoff games.
Under the proposal, Carroll University, Waukesha North High School and Waukesha South High School baseball teams would play at the facility.
Big Top Baseball would own and operate the stadium and would employ up to nine full-time and 250 seasonal employees at the Waukesha location, according to the city's website.
"Due to the speed we are putting everything together, there are some things the city will build and some things Big Top would build," Lahner said Monday.
Big Top Baseball currently owns five teams – the Kenosha Kingfish, Madison Mallards, Wisconsin Rapids Rafters, Lakeshore Chinooks and Green Bay Bullfrogs. It also operates Breese Stevens Field in Madison in a use agreement with the City of Madison.
The Waukesha Common Council will consider conceptual approval of the plan on Tuesday.
“Mindiola Park is an ideal location for this project as it will connect the already existing developments on both ends of Sunset Drive and will help to drive future development in the area,” Lahner said.