May 3, 2016
The Sheboygan Athletic Club has launched a $2 million capital campaign aimed at transforming Wildwood Baseball Park into one of the top semi-professional baseball complexes in the Midwest.
The city-owned Wildwood complex, which is located at the corner of New Jersey and Wildwood avenues, opened in 1981 and is operated by the Sheboygan Athletic Club.“We want to take this to a different level,” said Peter Geise, a local business consultant and former Sheboygan Falls school board member who’s helping lead the effort. The recently unveiled plans call for new lighting, expanded parking, upgraded food offerings, batting cages, private VIP seating, party decks, and other amenities intended to make the facility, which is home to the semi-pro Sheboygan A’s, a destination for baseball fans.
Geise said it’s already regarded as one of the better semi-pro venues in the Midwest, but city and team officials feel it remains an untapped asset.
Their hope is to make the field and the Sheboygan A’s — the complex’s chief tenant — a bigger draw for fans and to also increase Wildwood’s economic impact by attracting higher-profile baseball tournaments.
The A’s currently draw about 10,000 people a year but aren’t always a go-to entertainment option for locals, Geise said.
Its off-the-beaten-path location doesn’t help, he said, nor does the perception that it’s an amateur softball complex due to the neighboring Wildwood softball fields. In reality, the field hosts amateur and high school games, along with the A’s, which fields a roster that typically includes aspiring and former professional ballplayers and, to some degree, serves as a feeder for minor league teams.
Geise believes many of those issues could be remedied through better marketing.
“I think there are some diehards, but there are too many people who are aware of it, but they never think of it,” Geise said. “It’s out of sight, out of mind for people.”
One motivating factor for the project is to ensure there’s a sustainable business model and succession plan in place for the A’s. Denny Moyer, the team’s general manager, has operated the team without compensation since 1967, with help from his wife, Donna.
“To do it for free, what they’re doing? No way. Good luck. There’s no way you’re going to find someone to do it,” Geise said.
Moyer believes the team would be a much bigger draw with improved parking and other amenities at Wildwood. The park has been upgraded twice since opening 35 years ago, most recently in 2011 when it received a new scoreboard, backstop and dugouts.
“It would give us probably the finest semi-pro facility in the state, and probably the Midwest,” Moyer said.
The timeline will be contingent on money becoming available. Upgrading the lighting and parking remains a top priority.If the proposal moves ahead, the city would assist with paving and grading work outside the complex, but the project would otherwise be funded almost entirely through donations.
From there, Geise said they would look to create a spot for food trucks and add games, batting cages and other family activities.
They would also build a party deck on the grandstand behind home plate for groups to gather, socialize and watch the game, along with private VIP seating in the outfield.
The organization is also working to partner with area colleges to assist with different aspects of the project.
Backers have already approached the Lakeshore Culinary Institute of Lakeshore Technical College about assisting with food and Lakeland University about helping with marketing.
“It will be an asset for our community,” Moyer said.
Reach USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin Reporter Josh Lintereur at 920-453-5147, firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @joshlintereur.