Northwoods League lease approved by Parks Commission

One of the items on the Board of Park Commissioners agenda this evening was the approval of the lease between the city, the Board of Park Commissioners, and Baseball Like It Oughta Be, LLC, and Northwoods League, Inc., for Simmons Athletic Field.  Mayor Keith Bosman spoke on the issue.  He said that they have been working on the lease since May, and on the issue as a whole since October, 2011.

Vern Stenman, president of the Madison Mallards, was also in attendance at the meeting and spoke.  John Richardson, assistant city attorney, is the attorney who has been working on the lease agreement, which is providing private funds for a park that sadly needs rejuvenation.  Capital improvements in the amount of $500,000 are being made by the team, and greater than $300,000 in lease payments will be made to the city.  The team will play 35+ dates from April through September, and they will maintain the field for the high school teams.

Bosman said that they analyzed the parking, and he said the proposed amount of parking spaces at the stadium (one for each 3.25 seats) would fit within the city’s requirements for a stadium (one for each five seats).  Therefore, they feel that there is ample parking.  Plus, the Kenosha Achievement Center has agreed to let park attendees park in their lots on game nights.

Constructions is slated to begin in March, April, and May, of 2013, and should be completed by the fall of 2013.  The field should then be in pristine condition by the spring of 2014.

Stenman said that the league is not affiliated with Zion or Winthrop Harbor.  It’s been vastly changed for the better.  “The Northwoods League is the new standard, the next frontier.  It’s for those cities who couldn’t quite make professional baseball work.  Kenosha is a gorgeous city.  There will be seven teams in the state, a 16-team league.  It will be a successful endeavor,” he said.  Madison and Wisconsin Rapids are two of the other teams.  “The teams are a community asset,” he said.  “They are popular, they provide fun, and they contribute to the quality of life.”

Cliff Johnson stated that he went to Madison to watch a game this summer.  He said that it was clean, and they’ve recycled everything.  The people were very friendly, and the price of the tickets is much more reasonable than going to see the Milwaukee Brewers play.  The tickets are $10/person.  “This is a great opportunity for some superstar to come out of Kenosha through this league.”

Alderperson Kevin Mathewson said that it seems that this project already has the overwhelming support of the Common Council.  He said that he was “uncomfortable with the timing of this issue.  Tomorrow night, there is a public meeting taking place on the Simmons Field.”  He proposed waiting two weeks to see what the neighboring residents had to say.

Mathewson had an issue with fireworks, which would be going off as late as 10:45 or 11 pm.  Parking, live music, amplified sound, were other issues he mentioned.  “If it was in my backyard, I would want to be heard.  I think we need to wait to hear from the neighbors.  Two extra weeks wouldn’t hinder the project,” he said.  He also stated that he spoke to the alderperson of the 12th district (Alderperson Steve Bostrom), and he supports the two-week deferral.  However, the motion failed for lack of a second.

Stenman said that a representative will be in attendance at the meeting tomorrow, which will take place at the Southwest Library, starting at 7 pm.  He said that they are very interested in working with the neighboring residents of the facilities.  Regarding the issue of fireworks, the manner in which they’ve dealt with them in the past has been to remove the loud booms from the show.  They had no complaints after that.  They also would limit the firework displays to Friday and Saturday nights, and change to earlier starting times for the games.  “We are interested in being a good partner,” he said.  “People love fireworks.  But, we need to be respectful about how we pursue it.”

Also, no innings would start after 11:30 pm.  Stenman said that the standard was 12:00 midnight.  “But, these are family-focused events.  There would be no music late at night.”  He estimated having 1,500 or 2,000 people at these events.  “We want to be responsive to the neighbors,” he said.

Alderperson Rocco LaMacchia said that he went on the bus trip to Madison, and he was surprised and amazed.  “They provide entertainment and a game,” he said.  LaMacchia also stated that he read through the entire lease, and he had no problems with it.

Mathewson warned the group that the city settled with the Brass neighbors for $3.7 million when they signed things without hearing from the public.  Chairman Michael Orth said that the final decision will be made at the Common Council meeting next week.

Alderperson Anthony Kennedy had a question about other entities using the park.  It will be between the leasee and the other organizations using the park.  The city will not be involved, “which is the best situation as far as liability,” said Richardson.  Other organizations will be allowed to use the park for free.

Kennedy was concerned that this was only a “gentleman’s agreement” at this point.  He asked Richardson if it should be more clearly specified in the lease agreement.  “These ‘gentleman’s agreements’ have gotten us into trouble in the past,” he said.  Richardson’s reply was that, “the more you try to define, the more difficult it becomes.”

Frank Pacetti, the city administrator, said that we have the opportunity to use a very well-maintained field at no cost.  “The Kenosha Unified School District (KUSD) turned away the maintenance of the field to a non-profit organization that was ill-equipped to handle it.  The negotiations can occur between the league and whoever is using the field.”

The lease agreement was approved by a vote of 4 to 1 (Mathewson was the sole dissenting voter).

To read the first article on this subject, click here:  Northwoods League Proposes to Renovate Simmons Field.

One Response to Northwoods League lease approved by Parks Commission

  • Jake Loewen says:

    Has there been any talk about Job Applications for the new team? I am a 2012 UW-Parkside college graduate with a degree in Sports Management, looking for an employment opportunity in this organization.

    Thanks

    Jake Loewen

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