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Waukesha Ballpark Funding Plan Could Change

Northwoods League

After some backlash to the original plan, Waukesha, WI officials are exploring the creation of a new tax-increment financing district to help fund a new summer-collegiate Northwoods League ballpark. 

Waukesha has been working with Big Top Waukesha–which includes Big Top Baseball (operator of Northwoods League teams in Madison, Kenosha, Wisconsin Rapids and Green Bay) and Jim Kacmarcik, an owner of the Lakeshore Chinooks–on a project at Mindolia Park. The proposal calls for a new 2,500-fixed-seat ballpark, along with surrounding soccer fields. Waukesha is seeking to use TIF to help pay off $12 million in debt from the project, and had originally proposed the extending the boundaries and life of the existing TIF District 14.

However, the idea of extending that TIF was met with resistance from taxing jurisdictions Waukesha County and the Waukesha School District. With those entities accounting for two of the five spots on a Joint Review Board that would have to give its okay to the measure, city officials are now looking at a plan that calls for creating a new TIF district rather than extending the existing one. The creation of a new TIF would have to clear multiple hurdles, but the city and Big Top indicate they are ready to go through the process. More from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

In effect, the four-step process — holding an organizational meeting of the Joint Review Board, formally preparing a TIF plan for the city’s planning commission and common council to approve, and then bringing it to a final vote before the joint board — will begin anew, as it did last fall.

“We are setting the date for the next (Joint Review Board),” [City Administrator Kevin] Lahner said. “It is close — we’re narrowing in on the date.”

In earlier discussions, Lahner said officials with Big Top Waukesha have expressed satisfaction with the revised timeline toward financing approval. The firm is preparing to act quickly once all the approvals are final, he added.

Conor Caloia, Big Top’s chief operating officer and managing partner, confirmed the firm hasn’t backed off from its plans.

Under a plan approved last September, Big Top would pay $500,000 up front plus annual rent starting at $150,000 in year one before increasing one-percent annually over a 15-year lease. Plans called for the ballpark to feature an artificial turf with a configuration that could host baseball and soccer, along with amenities such as a hospitality space, concessions, restrooms, retail/office space, and more.

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