Flashback Friday: Money (1987)

The Goodland. (Wisconsin Timber Rattlers)

By Chris Mehring / Wisconsin Timber Rattlers | October 18, 2012 1:11 PM ET

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Welcome to another season of Flashback Friday.

This is the weekly column that takes a look back at events in the history of Appleton professional baseball.  Usually, the focus is on the field with a
great feat, an amazing game, a championship game, something interesting off the field, or a player profile.  To kick off this season....politics!

Oh, don't roll your eyes.  Not current national politics.  Local politics from 1987.

In 1987, the Appleton Foxes and the city of Appleton were in a disagreement over, get this, money.  A lot of stories, letters to the editor, and, opinions were printed in The Post-Crescent from March to the middle of the season.  It's interesting looking back at it now.  But, I've talked with some of the people involved at the time and it sure as heck wasn't interesting at the time.

This week's Flashback deals with the first appearance of the story that I have in the archives at the new office.  That mention is this article by David Horst from the front page of the Fox Cities/Regional section of the March 5, 1987 edition of The Post Crescent.

Payment for Goodland challenged

A proposal to eliminate a $24,200 payment from the city to Appleton Baseball Club, Inc for maintenance of Goodland Field would put the minor league baseball franchise in jeopardy, its president says.

Attorney A. Gerard Patterson, Appleton Baseball Club president, said it would be very difficult to operate the club without that payment.

"I don't think it would be fatal to us, but it certainly would put the whole thing in jeopardy," he said.

Ald. William Siebers submitted a resolution at Wednesday's Common Council meeting to eliminate the payment from the Appleton Parks and Recreation Commission to the owners of the Appleton Foxes beginning in 1988.  The resolution was referred to the Parks and Recreation Commission for debate.

Siebers said eliminating the payment would be "consistent with past actions" in cutting subsidies to other organizations.

The city already saved money by turning over operation of the field to the baseball club in 1983, Patterson said.  Under the lease between the club and the city, the club pays for maintenance, capital improvements, and utilities, with the contributing the payment toward the maintenance.

Teams from Appleton High School-East and West and the Appleton Rebels (of the Fox River Valley American Legion Baseball League) also use the field.

The lease extends through 1988 - when the payment will be $23,000 - so the city would have to break the lease to enact Siebers' resolution.

Patterson took issue with Siebers characterizing the payment as a subsidy.

"I think Siebers hasn't got the total picture when he calls it a subsidy," Patterson said.  He estimated the club's current cost for maintaining the field at $85,000-$90,000 a year.

The club has installed a new fence and a new infield and replaced three-fourths of the lights since taking over the maintenance.  All these are expenses the city otherwise would have had to bear, he said.

The resolution does not come at a good time, Patterson said, because the Class A Midwest League club is beginning a new affiliation with the Kansas City Royals this year after the Chicago White Sox franchise moved its Class A team to South Bend, Ind.

Patterson said if the city wants to get rid of baseball at Goodland Field, Siebers' resolution is the right course to take.

Dick Grant, parks and recreation director, said the city's cost for maintaining Goodland Field was about $56,000 when it was turned over to the Appleton Baseball Club in 1983.  He would not venture an opinion on the wisdom of Siebers' resolution and said he is not sure if the city would continue to operate Goodland Field for high school and Legion baseball if the Foxes left or folded.

"I don't know what the priorities are in the community," he said.

Siebers also sponsored a resolution in January to investigate selling city-owned Reid Municipal Golf Course to a private operator.  That resolution died in committee.

Next week:
The saga continues with an article from March 11, 1987.  Little League and poor use of the word "ironic" are dragged into the debate.

This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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