The Madison Mallards empire is now a team larger, as the group has purchased the Green Bay Bullfrogs from the summer-collegiate Northwoods League, per an announcement today by league president Dick Radatz, Jr.
The new ownership group consists of seasoned Northwoods League operators, including lead owner Steve Schmitt, Vern Stenman, Conor Caloia and Liz Kern. The group has been involved as owners or operators in the League for a combined 50 years. The group currently owns and operates Northwoods League franchises in Madison, Wis., Wisconsin Rapids, Wis. and Kenosha, Wis.
“Given the track record of this ownership group, we are looking for big things ahead with our Green Bay affiliate,” Radatz, Jr. said.
“We are excited to be a part of the Green Bay community,” the group said in a joint statement. “We think there is a great opportunity to enhance the game day experience for Bullfrogs fans and we are confident the best days for baseball in Green Bay are ahead of us.”
Kern has been named Vice President and General Manager of the Bullfrogs and will be relocating to Green Bay the first week of December to oversee day-to-day operations of the franchise. For the past four years, Kern has served as the General Manager of the Wisconsin Rapids Rafters. She was named the Northwoods League Executive of the Year and Ballparkdigest.com Executive of the Year in 2010. Kern has guided a team in the League’s second smallest market (out of 18) to the eighth best attendance in the circuit averaging nearly 1,400 fans over the past four seasons.
“I can’t wait to get to work,” Kern said. “Our organization prides itself on providing great family entertainment and I am honored to be a part of the next chapter of Northwoods League Baseball in Green Bay. I look forward to building a great partnership with the City of Green Bay and the area baseball teams.”
Schmitt is the owner of the Midwest’s largest independent shoe store, the Shoe Box in Black Earth, Wis. He founded the nation’s most successful summer collegiate franchise, the Madison Mallards, in 2001. Stenman has worked in the Northwoods League for 17 years and has been with the Mallards since the inception of the franchise. Caloia started as intern with the Mallards and has been the General Manager of the franchise for the last four seasons. The Mallards have an average per game attendance of more than 6,100 fans per game and lead the nation in every attendance category. When compared to more
than 260 minor league, independent league and summer collegiate franchises, the Mallards rank 23rd in the country outdrawing many AA and AAA affiliated teams. In 2011, the Mallards and the City of Madison completed a $2.2 million renovation to Warner Park that was funded through a public-private partnership.
In 2010, Schmitt and Stenman founded the Wisconsin Rapids Rafters bringing minor league-style baseball back to the community for the first time in more than 20 years. The Rafters have quickly become a phenomenon in the area garnering unprecedented fan and corporate support. The Rafters hosted the 2011 Northwoods League All-Star Game and have made several significant stadium upgrades including the installation of Milwaukee County Stadium seats, the construction of a walk-in souvenir stand and multiple club seating areas.
Earlier this year, Schmitt, Stenman and Caloia started Kenosha Baseball, the newest entry into the Northwoods League. The group is in the final stages of a complete renovation to Historic Simmons Field that was built in 1926. The $1.25 million public-private partnership with the City of Kenosha features, 1,500 new stadium seats, a refurbished historic grandstand and family area. Kenosha Baseball will begin play in the Northwoods League in May of 2014.
Stenman and Caloia will be involved in the day-to-day operation of the Bullfrogs with Kern. Between the four teams, the group has more than 20 full-time employees and 500 seasonal employees. The Bullfrogs plan to hire at least two new full-time employees plus several seasonal positions and internships. In addition to the Bullfrogs full-time staff, the ownership group will have several organizational experts based in other markets to consult on marketing, ticket sales, concessions and operations.
RELATED STORIES: Northwoods League buys back Green Bay Bullfrogs; Bullfrogs ballpark moves forward; will not seek city loan for now; Bullfrogs propose scaled-down ballpark; Owner: New Bullfrogs ballpark needs public investment; New Bullfrogs ballpark on hold; Bullfrogs put new-ballpark groundbreaking on hold; Green Bay approves Bullfrogs land plan; Royle: We’ve outgrown Joannes Stadium
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