Despite all that it has accomplished in the past half-century, the Sheboygan Athletic Club remains among Sheboygan’s least known and least appreciated organizations.
Most have heard of the Sheboygan A’s. Sports fans know the A’s are the city’s baseball club. They play against extremely strong teams throughout Wisconsin and Illinois. They provide young men from around the region who want to play serious baseball with a sterling opportunity.
But while it has been around for a long time, the Sheboygan Athletic Club is not nearly so well identified. In fact, for many, it is a complete non-entity. If you asked, people might say it is a health club. Few would give the right answer. So what is the right answer?
The Sheboygan Athletic Club is the formal organization that oversees the city’s baseball program. While it calls itself a “club,” it really is a non-profit, non-stock corporation recognized by the federal government and State of Wisconsin as a charitable organization.
The Sheboygan Athletic Club has an active membership of about 15-20 workers, and overall membership of about 40-50 - not nearly enough. It is a struggle, but the members keep at it with admirable perseverance and have built an impressive legacy of accomplishments. If you are a fan or a sponsor, congratulations, these are your accomplishments, too.
Has sponsored the A’s since 1963. In a couple of those years when there was enough interest, the Club sponsored two adult teams.
Played a key role in organizing the Wisconsin State League, the state’s premier semi-pro league, and is the only charter member still competing.
Took responsibility for maintenance and upkeep of Legion Park so that the A’s, Legion and “Rec” teams would have a lighted park in which to play.
When Legion Park became unusable, the Club helped the city plan and fund Wildwood Park.
In 1997, the Club dramatically expanded Wildwood Park, replacing bleachers with a grandstand, adding restrooms, a press box, skybox and expanded concessions facilities. At the time it was a $500,000 project.
It has regraded and rebuilt the infield several times, re-sodded, several times and constantly works at improving turf and infield materials. It built a storage shed and a picnic pavilion. It has purchased innumerable items of equipment for the park.
Started its youth program by purchasing a set of uniforms for a Stars of Tomorrow team in the 1960s. In the ‘70s it funded and ran the Christian High baseball program and later helped Lutheran High start its team. Then it began campaigning for public high school baseball and when that was successful in 1982 it provided start-up funding for North and South.
Has provided organizational support for the Diamonds Youth program.
Has given more than $17,000 in scholarships, run instructional clinics and coordinated tryout camps. In one way or another it has helped 200 Sheboygan athletes go on to play college ball.
In all, has spent OVER $1.5 million on park improvements
The Sheboygan Athletic Club does not own Wildwood Park, nor did it own Legion Park. Nonetheless it took on the task of working with the city and with the American Legion to make the city’s ballparks as fine a facility as time, manpower and money would allow. And much, much time, manpower and money has been expended.
The major renovation in 1997-98 came to $505,000. The club raised $400,000 including a magnificent gift from the Mary Testwuide Knauf family and borrowed the rest.
The club then took on the Wildwood Rally project, and phase one was completed in 2010. Phase one included putting in new dugouts, replacing the old fencing with MLB style netting in the backstop, field level seating, and more Due to difficult financial times the club’s capital campaign didn’t go as well as hoped and this phase required taking out a $175.000 bank note.
In 2013, the Club completed phase two of Wildwood Rally, which was replacing the original scoreboard with a new digital scoreboard with message center, with final costs being near $130,000. Sargento Cheese, Legend Larry’s, Boneck Printing, Larry’s Distributing, Northwoods™ Superior Chemical, Miesfeld’s Market and Quasius Construction stepped forward to help make it happen.
Phase three is now in progress, which includes new lights, new parking, and new amenities to improve the fan experience.