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Booyah’s new home has year-round expectations

Baseball, soccer only part of the annual mix for new stadium

By Dan Flannery

ASHWAUBENON – More than a baseball game will be at stake when the Green Bay Booyah opens its Northwoods League home schedule at Capital Credit Union Park.

The Booyah will face the Wisconsin Rapids Rafters at 7:05 p.m. on Saturday, June 1, but the inaugural season at the new home field for the newly named team will be a learning experience for all involved.

From Brad Toll’s perspective as president and CEO of the Greater Green Bay Convention and Visitors Bureau, this summer’s 36 home games will provide some needed data.

Toll said his organization isn’t able to forecast the impact of the new stadium just yet.

“A big thing will be where the people are coming from, and we’ll be able to get that (information) through ticket sales to try and determine if it’s drawing from outside the area and how much (farther),” Toll said, adding that they’ll be able to determine “other events that we may be able to attract in there.”

It’s Toll’s job to make sure that anyone who visits the Green Bay area stays just a little longer and spends just a few more dollars.

He has hopes for the new-look team in the new stadium at 2231 Holmgren Way.

“We’ll look at the convention groups that we have in during the time that they’re playing,” Toll said, “so if they have a home game and we’ve got a couple different groups in town, and they have a free night, certainly letting that convention or conference know, ‘Hey, you’ve got a free night tomorrow evening, there’s time to go out to the ballpark and here’s how you get tickets.’”

From Mary Kardoskee’s perspective as Ashwaubenon village president, this is an opportunity not just for her municipality, but for the families in larger area.

“I think it’s great for our whole area,” Kardoskee said. “You know, we’ve got a lot of action going on down here. You start up on Lombardi Avenue, you’ve got the Packers with Titletown. We’re putting in a $93 million expo hall, the county is, down on Oneida and Lombardi. I just see this stadium as an added bonus that bridges our sports and entertainment district with our retail district. And it just keeps everything strong and vibrant in this area.”

From Aaron Schuette’s perspective as Ashwaubenon’s community development director, Capital Credit Union Park could be a magnet to attract more businesses and jobs – retail and service industry.

He said it holds the hope and promise of tomorrow, and a lot more tomorrows after that.

“We need to look at not just now, but five, 10, 15, 20 years from now and really appreciate it,” Schuette said. “I see this as being a really important piece of what makes Ashwaubenon unique in the greater Green Bay area.”

And don’t forget the perspective of John Fanta, the Booyah vice president largely responsible for making his team’s games – and a host of other sporting events, business meetings, concerts and other opportunities – a highly recommended part of the area’s sports and entertainment offerings.

He’s hoping to book the $14 million facility for at least 100 mixed-use annual events.

“It definitely is supposed to be a multi-purpose events center,” Fanta said. “I think we’re looking at that space to be utilized as much as possible throughout the entire year. … We want to be more of a special-events destination, hoping to hold a concert in the venue at some point or two, maybe even later this year potentially as well.”

To Fanta’s point, baseball is not the only team calling Capital Park home.

The field – still under construction – is scheduled to open at 7 p.m., Friday, May 31, with a soccer game for the Green Bay Voyageurs FC of the USL (United Soccer League) League Two.

The Voyageurs will face Winnipeg in the field’s first event.

The Voyageurs are owned by Big Top Sports and Entertainment, based in Madison.

The organization also operates Forward Madison FC, a team in USL League One.

Fanta also serves as vice president of the Wisconsin Rapids Rafters, one of four Northwoods League teams operated by Big Top Baseball.

The others are the Kenosha Kingfish and the Madison Mallards, who play in Madison’s Breese Stevens Field, also operated by Big Top Sports and Entertainment.

For Ashwaubenon village officials, Big Top’s expertise in event planning and entertainment probably is as important – if not more – than its ability to field a sports team.

“We always knew that there was a bigger component other than just baseball,” Kardoskee said. “You knew it would be tough to build the stadium and only have baseball for June, July and August. So, we always knew that Big Top Baseball is pretty much an event company.”

“One of the nice things about working with Big Top baseball is they have a really good track record, whether it’s Madison, Wisconsin Rapids, Kenosha or even here in Green Bay/Ashwaubenon,” Schuette said. “We know going in that they’re an event business. They really promote family-friendly, affordable activities that would fit in well with Ashwaubenon and what we’re trying to build here.”

That more-inclusive building project includes Lambeau Field, the Green Bay Packers’ Titletown District, the Resch Center and the expo center that will replace the Brown County Veterans Memorial Arena and Shopko Hall.

None of that is far from Capital Credit Union Park, and all parties hope to promote linkage between facilities and activities for all visitors.

“Big Top likes to promote family friendly events at an affordable price,” Kardoskee said. “And when people come here for Packers training camps, and training camp is done at three in the afternoon, and they open the brochure and find out that the Booyah is playing at six o’clock that night, they can pop down from the hotel and go to a baseball game.”

Still, football season lasts only so long, training camp is not much more than a month, and the Booyah season ends Aug. 16, if the team advances to postseason play. The regular season ends Aug. 11.

That leaves a lot of openings for Fanta to fill.

Big Top is investing heavily in food and beverage opportunities, cultivating business partnerships and seeking new events to bring to the park.

Toll said he’s heard that a Quidditch tournament – Quidditch is a game from the Harry Potter books – might be coming to the facility.

“I’m very encouraged by their interest and doing more as far as other kinds of tournaments and events in that facility, which will attract more visitors into the area,” Toll said.

It’s all part of Fanta’s mission to expand on Capital Credit Union Park’s potential as a regional destination for any kind of event – business team-building, civic-group banquets, sports practices, etc.

The off-season will be just as important as the baseball and soccer season, a business model the Packers have successfully championed since the 2003 renovation of Lambeau Field, including the Titletown District.

The Booyah, the Voyageurs and Capital Credit Union Park are using the same strategy.

“I think a lot of sporting venues have gone to that off-season approach,” Fanta said. “You want to be visible. And if you are, it will help you execute what you do on a daily basis for an entire year, not just during the summer.”

In a few years, it’s possible – hoped, even – that 100 annual events in the facility will be a low number, and that portends another success for the village.

“We hope it helps bring people to the area,” Schuette said. “It helps other businesses in the area, whether it’s for parking or having a drink before or after the game or something to eat. You’ll get a cumulative effect that we’re all basically really getting.”

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