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Village board approves agreements for Bullfrogs’ move to Ashwaubenon

New multi-purpose facility to be built

By Kevin Boneske
Staff Writer 

ASHWAUBENON – Bringing the Green Bay Bullfrogs to Ashwaubenon in a new stadium has taken a leap forward.

The Ashwaubenon Village Board approved a series of measures Tuesday for having the Northwoods League baseball team begin playing next season in a new multi-purpose facility to be built for baseball, soccer and other community events at an estimated cost of $10 million.

The facility, for which two parcels near the village hall are being acquired for $1.225 million, will be paid for with a combination of lease revenue from Big Top Baseball, which owns and operates four Northwoods League baseball teams across Wisconsin, and Tax Incremental Financing revenues from other projects in the village.

“People are excited to get the Bullfrogs here,” said Mary Kardoskee, village president.

Big Top Baseball is entering into a 20-year lease agreement with the option for three, one-year extensions and will pay annual rent of $205,000 for the first five years with a 1 percent increase each year until the end of the agreement.

In addition, Big Top baseball will initially contribute $500,000 for the construction of the stadium, which may include cash and/or donations, such as seating or digital billboards, as well as contribute $750,000 for capital improvements/maintenance work between years 6-20 of the lease.

The village, which is committing up to $9.5 million of the stadium cost, will contribute $50,000 annually to the capital improvement fund beginning in 2019.

Big Top Baseball will be responsible for day-to-day maintenance and operations of the stadium and repairs less than $7,500, while it would be the village’s responsibility for capital improvements or large maintenance items greater than $7,500.

Vern Stenman, Big Top Baseball president, presented the project plans at Tuesday’s board meeting.

He noted stadium construction is slated to begin late this summer to be able to have the facility ready in June 2019 for Northwoods League baseball and Premier Development League soccer, both summer amateur leagues for college players, as well as be available for concerts and community events.

Stenman said moving the Bullfrogs to Ashwaubenon in a new stadium, which will have 2,500 fixed seats with the capacity of 4,000 for various athletic events, materialized after efforts to build a new facility for the team in the city of Green Bay could not be finalized.

Big Top Baseball President Vern Stenman

“We had conversations with (the village of Ashwaubenon) late in 2017, and kind of had them as a backup, pending what happened in Green Bay,” Stenman said. “As it became clear that there wasn’t a clear short-term answer with Green Bay, we said to Ashwaubenon, ‘You know, the door’s open to consider possibly a move to the village,’ and they greeted us with open arms.”

Big Top Baseball will have the naming rights to the stadium, but with approval by the village board.

Stenman said he didn’t have a specific name in mind for the facility prior to the board approving the project.

“Now that we have the approval (Tuesday night), we’ll start really thinking about that,” he said. “We’ll be sitting down with partners that we have in the community to discuss the possibility of putting their name on the stadium.”

The village may host up to 10 community events there annually under the terms of the lease.

Stenman said the new facility would be used at least 150 days out of the year.

He noted an artificial surface has been selected over a grass field because of “maintenance and the ability to rebound from events.”

“If you were playing 36 baseball games in a summer in three months or 2 1/2 months like we do, it’s about as much activity as you consistently want to have on a grass field,” he said. “The turf allows us to quickly transition to soccer, to concerts, to community events, and you could literally use the field everyday without really causing damage to the playing surface.”

Stadium design costs

Pendulum, a company Big Top Baseball has previously worked with for architectural services for stadium construction projects, has been awarded the contract to design the new baseball stadium at a cost not to exceed $753,739.

That fee could be less based upon bidding of the engineering subcontracts.

The design costs are included in the original projection of the stadium cost of $10 million.

The estimated design costs include $344,400 for architectural services, $259,339 for engineering services and $150,000 in additional services.

Construction manager

The four trustees present also unanimously approved a construction management contract with RODAC in an amount not to exceed $457,356, which is also included in the $10 million stadium construction cost.

Allison Swanson, village manager, said the village has previous experience with RODAC on other projects the company has done in Ashwaubenon.

She noted the contract is for professional services and not the construction itself, which would have to be publicly bid out.

“Everything would have to be publicly bid, and they will assist us in doing that,” Swanson said.

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