Flashback Friday: Subsidy Saga Pt II (1987)

We are just going to keep using this Goodland Field picture until someone gets us a different one.

By Chris Mehring / Wisconsin Timber Rattlers | October 26, 2012 6:54 AM ET

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Last week on Flashback Friday, we began the saga of the Foxes Field Maintenance Fee.  This week:  Part II.  It is from a story by David Horst that appeared on the front page of the Fox Cities/Regional Section of the March 11, 1987 edition of The Post-Crescent.  

Little League gets help, but Foxes out on a limb

The controversy over charging Appleton's Little League and Babe Ruth baseball for field maintenance has been stilled by an anonymous donor who has agreed to pay the bull for 1987.

At the same time, the Appleton Foxes may need a benefactor of their own.  The Parks and Recreation Commission voted unanimously to end the payment the city makes toward maintenance of Goodland Field beginning in 1989.

Harlan Balkasky, Little League vice president, suggested the donor I a corporate entity but said the donor requested to remain anonymous.  The offer is good only for this year, he said, but it will give everyone involved a chance to think through a policy on what kind of support the city will provide for youth activities.

The city needs to look at the wisdom of cutting the Parks and Recreation Department budget at a time when the Appleton School District is building new schools, an indication that there will be more youths to serve, he said.

Dick Grant, director of parks and recreation, said having the donor surface solves the problem for the Little League and Babe Ruth without costing taxpayers anything.

The city will continue to provide fields for the private youth groups, but will charge for any additional maintenance needed specifically for those groups.  The charge for the 1987 season is estimated at $7,100.

Representatives of other youth activities such as the Appleton Soccer Club and Americanos Drum and Bugle Corps asked for equal support for all youth groups.

The proponents of the resolution - Ald. Edward Spang, Richard DeBroux and Eldred Mullen - withdrew it with the emergence of the donor.

Ald. William Siebers, who supported the subsidy of youth baseball, last week submitted a resolution to eliminate a payment of $23,000 the city committed to make to Appleton Baseball Club, Inc. next year to assist in maintenance of Goodland Field, home of the Foxes.  Siebers argues that if the city can't afford a subsidy to youth baseball, it can't afford a subsidy for a professional team.

The commission amended that to eliminate the payment after the 1988 season, when the club's lease agreement with the city expires.  The lease provides for the Foxes using the city-owned field at no charge with the club paying for all maintenance, utilities, and capital improvements.  The city agrees to pay $24,000 this year and $23,000 next year toward maintenance.

The field is also used by Appleton East and West high school teams and the Appleton Rebels of the Fox River Valley American Legion Baseball League.

Siebers says he agrees with waiting until the lease runs out to end the payment and was pleased that the commission went on record saying it.

Ald. James Smits said the action gives the Foxes ample notice to find an alternate funding source.  It is enough of a subsidy that the team is allowed to play at the field without paying rent, he said.

"It always seemed ironic to me that we feed these players to the major league teams which are owned by millionaires," he said.  He called the resolution a "testing of the political waters."

The recommendation goes to the Common Council next Wednesday.

The Appleton Baseball Club was not represented at Tuesday's commission meeting.  Attorney A. Gerard Patterson, club president, this morning said he will discuss the matter with the club's executive committee.

He said the Foxes have a two-year player development contract with the Kansas City Royals and a two-year lease agreement with the city and will have to address the future beyond that.

"We're going to play ball for a couple of years here and, with a little luck, maybe we can convince the city of the error of its ways or we'll find some other solution to it," he said.

People involved with the Appleton Baseball Club remain the same, but city officials come and go, he said, so they seem to forget that the club has taken over maintenance costs the city used to pay and that members of the club's board of directors signed notes making them personally responsible for a loan to build a new locker room rather than having the city pay for it.

Pulling this quote for emphasis: It always seemed ironic to me that we feed these players to the major league teams which are owned by millionaires.

In the context of this article, I have an idea of what the speaker is getting at with this quote.  The quote also shows that the speaker - to paraphrase from an internet video - is basically saying, "Minor league baseball.  How does it work?"

Next week, The Dean of Appleton Sportswriters checks in with his opinion.

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

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