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New Waukesha Ballpark Plan Scrapped

Northwoods League

Discussions over a proposed new Waukesha, WI ballpark for a summer-collegiate Northwoods League team have been scrapped, a decision prompted by push back over financing. 

Waukesha officials were 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 the city’s Mindolia Park. The proposal called for a new 2,500-fixed-seat ballpark to accommodate a new Northwoods League team, along with surrounding soccer fields. Waukesha sought to use tax-increment financing (TIF) to help pay off $12.8 million in debt from the project, but faced push back when trying to have the plan approved.

Initially, the city proposed extending an existing TIF district, but amidst opposition later floated another plan that called for creating a separate district. However, there was not enough support from the Joint Review Board–which is comprised of representatives of the city, Waukesha County, the Waukesha School District, Waukesha County Technical College, plus an at-large citizen–to move forward with either plan. The city announced on Tuesday that it is dropping discussions over the proposed complex. Big Top, for its part, is not ruling out a future pursuit of the Waukesha market. More from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

[City Administrator Kevin] Lahner hinted at the city’s disappointment that officials did not see the potential that the sports complex represented in the further redevelopment of areas along Sunset Drive. He also referenced the city’s past successes using TIF dollars.

“While there has been a long history of partnership with the school district, Waukesha County, and the Waukesha County Technical College that has already created nearly $300 million in new assessed value in the city of Waukesha and a projected $575 million in new taxable value, the other jurisdictions have chosen to not support this project,” he said. “We respect their position and look forward to working with them on future projects.”

Conor Caloia, the chief operating officer and managing partner of Big Top Baseball, did leave the possibility of a new stadium deal somewhere in the Waukesha area, though he was not specific.

“We remain interested in the market and conversations are ongoing,” Caloia said.

Under a plan approved last September, Big Top would have paid $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.

Waukesha has been linked to multiple efforts for a new ballpark. The city and Big Top had initially discussed a proposed new ballpark for Frame Park, but shifted their focus to Mindiola Park early last year amidst local opposition to building at Frame ParkAn earlier ballpark proposal led by developer Chad Bauer also focused on Frame Park, but it failed to come to fruition.

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