In Need Of A Makeover
Posted: December 2, 2009
The old ballpark is in need of some serious repairs.
When it rains, the dugouts flood with up to two feet of muddy water, and the wood on the benches is rotting with mold. The back screen protecting the fans sitting in the grandstand needs replacing. So do the lights. And there’s never enough parking to handle those who show up on game nights.
That’s why the Sheboygan Athletic Club, the people in charge of running the city-owned Wildwood Baseball Park, are asking the public to step up to the plate once again to fix up the aging stadium. They’re looking to raise about $200,000 to start renovating the park, used by high-school teams, American Legion and the semi-pro Sheboygan A’s.
“Baseball’s been here since 1886, you know. Good baseball,” said Denny Moyer, 66, the longtime general manager of the Sheboygan A’s, which plays its home games at Wildwood. “We’ve got good teams, we’ve got a great baseball tradition, and we want to keep it. It’s important to the community.”
The park, built on the corner of New Jersey and Wildwood avenues in 1981, last was upgraded about a decade ago, when the Sheboygan Athletic Club raised about $400,000 and got a bank loan for another $100,000 to replace the grandstand, build new restrooms and put in several other improvements.
The loan was paid off earlier this year, but the needs continue, mostly because the park is used constantly in the spring and summer months.
“It’s the only lighted field in town and it’s grossly overused, we think,” Moyer said. “The high school kids start the first week of April, and then we (the A’s) get in here the end of May, Legion comes in the first week of June and it goes until near the end of August. It’s four, five nights a week of games here, sometimes every night.”
But the poor economy has put the brakes on any new fundraising efforts. The Sheboygan Athletic Club has only raised about $25,000 in its quest for the planned improvements, and recently went to Sheboygan officials to see what the city can do.
At a recent Plan Commission meeting, Mayor Bob Ryan said the city — which maintains the field and covers the cost of utilities — would be willing to help, but there’s really no money available for improvements.
“I think the A’s program is a great program,” Ryan said. “They’ve got a nice facility there, but it’s in need of upgrading and I don’t want the issue to die. I think the city needs to explore every option available to it to assist in any way we can.”
Moyer and Stangel wanted the city put the park up as collateral so a bank could loan the Sheboygan Athletic Club the money for the improvements, but Ryan said that option was “not feasible.”
Instead, he asked the club to develop a business plan to give the city and prospective donors the confidence that upgrading the park would be financially viable.
“They’ve done a lot for the community,” Ryan said. “I think the community could possible return the favor.”
Stangel, 55, said the fact that the city didn’t turn the club down cold gives him some hope. He thinks the city could provide some assistance with infrastructure improvements, such as paving a new parking lot.
“Maybe there’s something that we haven’t seen but they will help us, give us some direction and help us solve the problem,” Stangel said.
Moyer and Stangel also plan to contact the Sheboygan Area School District to see what kind of financial help it could provide. District teams currently use the park for games at no cost. The community contribution well has essentially gone dry, but Moyer and Stangel want to keep plugging away.
“That’s really the ideal way of doing it is getting the community support,” Stangel said.
The long-range goal — including new lights, a scoreboard and expanded parking — pushes the total price tag for the park to about $500,000, but the two will settle for the $200,000 now for the dugouts and screening, to show that they’re serious about the project.
“We’re stewards of baseball for the Sheboygan community, that’s for sure,” Stangel said. “We’ve got to keep it going. Keep it going for another 100 years.”
Reach Bob Petrie at email@example.com and 453-5129.
The Sheboygan A's are members of the Wisconsin State League and Northeastern Wisconsin Baseball League. The A's have helped develop more than 43 players that have reached professional baseball, including 2002 World Series Champion Jarrod Washburn (Anaheim Angels). All Sheboygan A's home games are played at Wildwood Baseball Park in Sheboygan. Connect with the A's on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.