Flashback Friday: Subsidy Saga Pt IV (1987)

By Chris Mehring / Wisconsin Timber Rattlers | November 9, 2012 5:16 AM ET

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I promised to wrap up the Subsidy Saga this week.  But, I found a second article.  Solution:  Run both articles for Flashback Friday this week and get back to the on the field stuff next week.  Simple. Elegant. Like me.

Last week on Subsidy Saga, Post-Crescent Editor John L. Paustian had written a column that laid out arguments to continue the subsidy to assist Appleton Baseball Inc. with maintenance to Goodland Field.  This was in response to Part I and Part II.

It was noted that the decision to eliminate the subsidy had been referred back to the Parks and Recreation Commission by the full Common Council on March 18.  The Parks and Recreation Commission took up the issue again on April 21.

David Horst has the story from the April 22 edition of The Post-Crescent.

New decision backs funding for Goodland Field

A unanimous decision that would have ended a payment to the Appleton Foxes for maintenance and utilities at Goodland Field was reversed Tuesday by the Appleton Parks and Recreation Commission.

Appleton attorney A. Gerard Patterson, president of Appleton Baseball Club Inc., which owns the Class A minor league team, said of the decision, "I'm certainly happy with this, but it's not the end."

The Common Council is to vote o the commission's new recommendation May 6.

Patterson told the commission that the present arrangement is a partnership that saves the city money in maintenance costs while at the same time providing inexpensive entertainment for residents.

"We think that Goodland Field is good for the community, and I don't think anyone disputes that," Patterson said.

Ald. James Smits disputed whether it is good enough for the city to contribute city property taxes.  The Foxes already use the field with no rental charge and that is subsidy enough, he said.

Under a contract with the Appleton Baseball Club, the city is to pay $24,000 this year and $23,000 in 1988 in consideration for city uses of the park and contributions toward maintenance and utility bills which are paid by the club.

Patterson said the city paid more than $55,000 a year to maintain Goodland before entering into the contract with the Club.  Appleton Baseball has used the city payments and its own revenues to make improvements, such as a new outfield fence and new infield, and plans to continue capital improvements including a new outfield, backstop fencing and netting, lights, electrical wiring, and parking lot pavement.

If the city payments end, he said, the club won't have money left after paying salaries and utility bills to make any further improvements.  The Foxes probably could play there for as long as seven years before lack of maintenance would become a severe impairment, he said.

"Without some kind of consideration from the city, we are going to be able to do less and less.  It just seems like too good a deal to let it go."

He listed other cities in the Midwest League which are making large investments in ballfields to get or keep minor league teams - $5.2 million in South Bend, Ind.; $3.7 million in Kane County, Ill.;  $150,000 in the Quad Cities and Wisconsin Rapids.

Pat Schinabeck, committee chairman, said she would like to get more public comment before deciding to cut off the payment.  She said she had difficulty justifying using tax money to support the operation as something the community wants, when the team's ticket revenues can't support it.

"It seems to me if the public really wants the Foxes here, they'll come to the ballpark and buy a ticket to support you," she told Patterson.

However, she said, before ending the payment, the city should have a plan for what it would do with Goodland Field if it gets the ballpark back.

"Nothing," Smits responded.  "Board it up."

In the end, the commission voted 3-1 to deny a resolution to end payment to Appleton Baseball after the contract expires in 1988.  The same resolution had been approved unanimously by the commission March 10 but was referred back by the Common Council.

Even if the council now supports taking no action to end the payment, the club and the city will have to negotiate a new arrangement before the present contract expires after the 1988 season.


So, the Common Council met on May 6.  Bob Lowe has the results of that meeting in the May 7, 1987 PC.  

Goodland Field subsidy sustained

By a vote of 17-3, the Appleton Common Council Wednesday refused to discontinue the city's subsidy to the Appleton Baseball Club Inc., after the lease agreement expires in 1988.

The city currently pays the Appleton Foxes' parent company $24,000.  The subsidy is to be reduced to $23,000 next year.

In exchange, the city gets to use the park and the club pays for maintenance and utility bills.

A. Gerard Patterson, president of the club, said this contribution is a small price to pay for the positive things the baseball club does for the city.

The club's annual budget is $250,000, which has a multiplier effect of seven times that amount in the community, according to the Fox Cities Chamber of Commerce and Industry.  In addition, players spend thousands of dollars for rent, cars, food and entertainment.

Patterson said other cities spend up to $150,000 or more for baseball clubs.

"Wisconsin Rapids which doesn't even have a team in the league, is committed to spend $100,000 to $150,000 in hopes of getting a minor league team in their city," Patterson said.

But Ald. Jim Smits said the only reason the club needs this subsidy is because "they don't have fan support."

He said the land on which Goodland Field sits is valued at about $1 million and can be rented out at $100,000 a year.  "And we let them use it for nothing.  We don't charge them any rent at all.  That, in effect, subsidizes some millionaire baseball owner."

He said the Oshkosh- and Appleton-based Wisconsin Flyers semi-professional basketball team, which recently announced that it is moving to Rochester, Minn., had an average attendance of 1,000 per game, which is more than the Foxes can generate.

"However, they paid their rent," Smits said.  "They didn't come to the Oshkosh campus or school district and say, 'Will you pay us to use your gym?'"

Ald. William Siebers said the city is being "inconsistent" by cutting off the $7,200 in maintenance costs for Little League and Babe Ruth baseball while continuing the Foxes' subsidy.

Ald. Dennis Hendrickson said the $23,000 contribution should be considered a "good business investment."  Ald. Paul Schreiter said that is not a "make-or-break amount" and should be considered a contribution to the city's "quality of life".

"Board it up."  Seriously?  That was a plan?

The land that is "valued at about $1 million and can be rented out at $100,000 a year" on which stood Goodland Field?  It is now Nienhaus Field, a sports complex run by the Appleton Area School District and used by Appleton West High School.

If you look back on this episode from 1987 and combine it with the "Should Fox Cities Stadium be built?  Should Goodland Field be renovated?  Should they do nothing? Period of 1992-1994, sometimes it is a miracle that professional baseball survived in the Fox Cities.

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

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