The City of Oconomowoc Common Council has before them a proposal from Blue Ribbon Baseball for the construction of a 2,500-seat baseball stadium and 43,000 square foot indoor training facility. As they debate the specifics of the conditional use permit (CUP) that is being requested, it’s important to look at what the impact could be for such a project from an economic point of view.
Diamond Club Entertainment (Blue Ribbon Baseball) has checked off all the boxes that the city requires in order to move forward with the project. Everything from parking concerns to restrooms, landscaping to environmental impacts have been looked at and addressed in their proposal. Since the site is located in the city limits, it will be on sewer and water like the adjacent industrial manufacturing businesses. The turf field that is being proposed is no different than the one being used in the city already at the Oconomowoc High School. In fact, the Federal Government, namely the EPA, has shown no reason why these fields cannot be used.
Recently, the council decided to table a decision until they could review the materials that were presented to them during a long night of public hearings. We sat through hours of “testimony” from citizens that were either for or against the project. We sat and listened to some raise questions regarding topics that were of concern to them. We heard from kids that are passionate about using the facility, and we heard from others that love baseball and want nothing more than to have an affordable, local destination to go to.
In the end, the decision was made to table a vote on the CUPs to give the alderpersons time to review the nearly 2,000 pages of documents that were presented on the night of the final public hearing. We can all appreciate the city’s desire to get this project done correctly and in the best interest of all citizens of not only Oconomowoc, but the entire county, which will benefit from this approval.
A stadium project such as this, in conjunction with the proposed summer collegiate baseball team could provide a huge impact on the City of Oconomowoc and all of Waukesha County. From a local sports perspective, you have youth sports organizations that would gain the ability to host tournaments or games later into the evening by having a lit facility to use.
Imagine if a youth softball organization had a facility with lights that allowed them to play later into the evening. This opportunity would allow them to include more teams, from further distances to join their tournament. This expansion of teams would lead to more overnight stays at area hotels, more meals had in restaurants around town, and more gas being purchased at area gas stations.
This is one example of what the economic impact could be to the area. There have been a number of articles written in the past few years regarding this subject. Most recently, the Milwaukee Brewers have announced the estimated impact that Miller Park has had on the area alone. This figure is in the billions. While that is not comparing apples to apples with regards to this project, it is fair to say that having a team in the community will impact all the surrounding area.
In 2009 (a number of years ago, but in a time of historic recession) the La Crosse Loggers of the Northwoods league conducted a study that quantified their organization. The City of La Crosse recognized between $1.1 and $1.3 million in Northwoods League related spending. Additionally, the club made donations in the amount of $500,000 to local organizations.1 The Loggers feel that their “impact could be nearly double that figure now.”2
The Wisconsin Woodchucks, also of the Northwoods League, recently released their 2019 community impact report. This report demonstrates what their organization has been able to do or donate back to their community. Through game-day initiatives that were in partnership with local businesses, the Woodchucks donated over $15,500 to various causes that are important to their club.
They also made 53 in-kind donations to local organizations such as churches, schools, local government entities, and other sports organizations. Woodchucks mascot, players and staff made over 35 appearances at area events such as charity runs, walks, community celebrations and more.3
Northwoods League Foundation is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization that is associated with the baseball league. Their mission is “To utilize the game of baseball to enrich the quality of life for children and families with an enduring and caring focus on Northwoods League communities.”
Diamond Club Entertainment, by beginning a Northwoods League team here, would be bringing the opportunities of this organization to Lake Country.
The Northwoods League Foundation will be awarding over $50,000 in grants to Northwoods based communities to be used by youth organizations. Clubs like the Oconomowoc 5 O’s, Kettle Moraine Junior Lasers and all others in the Lake Country area would be eligible for a grant thanks to Diamond Club Entertainment. To put this in perspective, the new equipment budget for a local youth softball organization in 2020 is $4,000. This grant money could make a huge impact on the community by allowing clubs to decrease registration costs, all thanks to the team playing in the stadium.
According to the Wisconsin Department of Tourism, from 2017 to 2018 Waukesha County has seen a 6.23% increase in direct visitor spending. Across the state, visitors spend roughly 14% on recreation, 27% on lodging and another 26% on food and beverage. By allowing the construction of this stadium, the Lake Country area will be able to market themselves more effectively as an area of the county that offers something unique for visitors.
Tourists will be able to come stay in an area hotel, utilize the Waukesha County Parks by hiking through the Kettle Moraine Forest, shop and dine in stores and restaurants on Main Street in the City of Oconomowoc and attend a baseball game that showcases local businesses, organizations and provides affordable entertainment for people of all ages.
The mission of the Wisconsin Department of Tourism is to “inspire travelers to experience Wisconsin.” By providing tourists a variety of entertainment options, you will be able to keep them in your city longer, spend more in your local businesses and provide them a reason to return. On the City of Oconomowoc website, it states that “Whenever you’re in the Oconomowoc area, there’s always something to do!” Why not provide tourists a reason to come back to the area more often?