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No stance taken on Steffen stadium proposal

By Heather Graves

BROWN COUNTY – The Brown County Executive Committee unanimously agreed to not take a stance on proposed legislation by State Rep. David Steffen (R-Green Bay), which calls for the dissolution of the Lambeau Field Stadium District, when it met Tuesday, Feb. 7.

“We’re now going to have discussion on what now at this point is basically the opinion of a single representative in the State of Wisconsin,” District 17 Supervisor and committee member John Van Dyck said.

The discussion was brought to the committee by District 9 Supervisor Pat Evans who asked the county to take a public stance on the resolution.

“We should send this down to the legislature and the governor’s office and just say hey, no,” Evans said.


In November, Steffen proposed legislation to eliminate the Stadium District and transfer its responsibilities to the City of Green Bay.

He said the district completed its purpose for which the Legislature created it more than 20 years ago, to renovate Lambeau Field with a $295 million public investment and make the stadium financially sustainable for the future.

Part of Steffen’s plan, dissolves the district’s $81 million fund, which was built through sales tax revenue, to refund the Green Bay Packers for stadium maintenance – sending approximately $600 checks to Brown County homeowners, along with millions more split between the City of Green Bay, the Village of Ashwaubenon, Brown County, Green Bay, Ashwaubenon, the Greater Green Bay Chamber and the Greater Green Bay Community Foundation.

“Before I get to the proposal, I want to speak the most about the why related to this proposal, this draft proposal, more than the how,” Steffen said.

He highlighted three primary reasons behind his stance, the first of which he said was personal.

“In the year 2000, as an employee of the Green Bay Packers, I made a commitment, a promise to the community that related to the temporary nature of all elements relating to the referendum, so this is my way of honoring my commitment, my promise,” Steffen said.

The second – transparency and oversight, which he said is insufficient, “to say the least.”

“The Stadium District controls more money than the 22 of the 24 communities in Brown County, and yet it has less transparency and oversight than all of them,” Steffen said.

The third, he said, was a rush to sign a new lease.

Steffen said the legislation proposal is a very rough draft, describing it as “a whiteboard exercise.”

“I haven’t even referred it to get a bill number,” he said. “This was an opportunity to have a very frank, and important, discussion.”

Steffen said he has no plans for his proposal to be voted on in Madison this year.

Packers’ stance

It’s a plan, Director of Public Affairs Aaron Popkey said the Packers are not on-board with.

Last month, in a similar discussion at a City of Green Bay Finance Committee meeting, Popkey threatened legal action against the city and the state if the proposed legislation went forward.

Popkey said it’s clear where the Packers and Steffen disagree in regards to the lease in place, and finds several concerns with Steffen’s proposal.

He said the Packers have stayed true to referendum promises, and expects the other parties involved do the same.

Popkey also continued to question the proposal’s legality.

“The proposed legislation ignores all of that and doles out the sales tax money to select homeowners and other favored recipients,” he said. “Disregarding the legislative and voter mandates, as well as the terms of the lease, the contract, is irresponsible and illegal.”

The Packers play in Lambeau Field, but the organization leases it from the City of Green Bay and the Stadium District.

“The proposed legislation also redirects ticket tax proceeds that have been legislatively and contractually dedicated to Lambeau Field to a wide variety of alternative uses believed to have a certain appeal,” Popkey said. “The purpose of the ticket tax is to have Packers ticket holders and game attendees share in the upkeep of the stadium that they use and enjoy…. Set aside for that purpose. That money is contractually obligated to the stadium for its upkeep, that was the intended purpose.”

Popkey said the process by which the parties are discussing a lease extension is very deliberate.

“It is something that we discussed years ago as looking far down the road to the end of the lease,” he said. “Some updates that are needed. Some updates that are prudent.”

District Executive Director Patrick Webb said the “rush,” as Steffens described it, behind working toward a new lease has much to do with the age of expertise on the Stadium District Board.

“For the last year, I have expressed an interest to our board after we were approached by the board a year and a half ago to start talking about a new lease – to at least get some preliminary information rather quickly, because when the two people that know the most about the lease are 70 and 73 (years old), there might be a desire to negotiate this lease and at least get some of the finer points taken care of before either of us drop dead,” Webb said. “The rush was trying to take advantage of the expertise that was in the room, who have been involved with the lease for 20 some years.”

Committee thoughts

Van Dyck said, from what he heard during the meeting, he would support the continuation of the Stadium District Board.

“I’m in support of continuing the board, I just think taking a position at this point is a little premature given the fact that we got nothing we are basing it on…,” he said. “This isn’t even a bill. If we are going to have a debate on this, and take position on it, I have no problem with that, but it would be nice if there were actually some type of legislation to take a position on and there isn’t any. Politicians say a lot of things. I guess if we are going to get into discussing every opinion some politician has at this board, then we are going to be sitting here a lot.”

Echoing Van Dyck’s sentiment, Dave Landwehr, District 12 Supervisor and committee member said taking a stance is premature.

“To send a letter to Madison when you aren’t referencing a bill is putting the cart way before the horse,” Landwehr said. “This is something that I agree with you on, Supervisor Evans, the district serves a purpose at this point it shouldn’t be dissolved…  but to send a letter now is premature.”

The committee ultimately voted to receive and place the resolution request on file.

Evans said he plans to pull the item for further discussion when it’s in front of the full board at its next meeting.


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