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Renovation, not replacement of Athletic Park likely course of action

Given the economy, the sentiment in Wausau is spending money on renovations to Athletic Park, the home of the Wisconsin Woodchucks, rather than replacing it.
When Marathon County officials determined the concessions at Wausau’s Athletic Park, the home of the Wisconsin Woodchucks (summer collegiate; Northwoods League), needed upgrading to meet code, the team faced a tough decision: whether to spend almost a million dollars on upgrades or seek a new ballpark.

The first course of action was to sound out various government entities for funding. But with budgets tight and lending limited, it now sounds like owner Clark Eckhoff is leaning toward pursuing funds for a renovation.

The county wants to see the concessions consolidated and expanded, while the Woodchucks want to see upgrades to the press box and clubhouses. The total cost for all the desired changes: around $800,000, as opposed to the $2.8 million or so needed for a new ballpark. (The Wausau Daily Herald suggests a new ballpark would cost upwards of $5.8 million, but that would make for a pretty opulent Northwoods League facility.) The city’s Parks Department would prefer a new ballpark — just not on their dime.

While we can’t see the Woodchucks moving, we can see some disagreements coming down the pike. The ‘Chucks’ lease ends after the 2009 season, and we’re guessing both sides will be ready to sit down for the terms of an extension sometime during the beginning of next year.