Survey says: Area wants new Snapper stadium

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August 5, 2010
— One of the most famous lines from a baseball movie is, “If you build it, he will come,” the immortal words Kevin Costner hears in “Field of Dreams.”

Will a recent feasibility study allow the Beloit Snappers Baseball Club to move a step closer to its own “Field of Dreams?”

And if a new stadium is built, will fans come?

Dennis Conerton, Snappers board chairman, believes so.

“It’s very encouraging,” Conerton said of the study, which indicated that 75 percent of participants voted favorably for a proposed year-round multipurpose event facility and new stadium for minor league baseball in the Beloit Gateway Development area on Interstate 90.

“We now have to take the study and analyze it. There are still a lot of questions to be answered. We weren’t convinced that the community was still in favor of a new location for a stadium because of the current economic situation. Now, we know the majority of them are.”

Location, and the year-round facility use, was the biggest reasons given for building in the Gateway Development area.

The Snappers average close to 90,000 fans per year at Pohlman Field. The study indicated that a stadium built in the Beloit Gateway Development area could draw as many as 200,000 fans per year—more than double the current attendance rate.

Money remains the No. 1 obstacle in funding a new stadium/multipurpose facility. The estimated cost of new accommodations for the Snappers is between $5 million and $10 million dollars. That money would be raised through a capital campaign that 66 percent of those surveyed said was feasible.

“We know with the current state of the economy in this area that this is not the best time to ask for money,” Conerton said. “But we would still have a desire to finance a portion of the project’s cost with private donations through a general community campaign.”

Terry Ryan, former Minnesota Twins general manager and current senior adviser to the general manager, knows about stadium financing. He was GM for the Twins when the organization pushed for a new stadium to replace the outdated Metrodome.

Ryan is in Beloit to watch the Snappers—Minnesota’s Class A affiliate—and said the stadium issue is an ongoing debate at every level of professional baseball.

“You look at the new stadiums in Appleton, Dayton and Cedar Rapids, and they’re very impressive,” Ryan said. “But it still comes down to how are you going to pay for it?

“We went through a decade-long stadium issue before we got the approval for our new one (Target Field). And I know this is a difficult time, especially in this area, to raise money.”

Ryan said new stadium or no new stadium, the Twins organization wants to remain in Beloit and continue its positive working relationship with the Snappers.

“Whatever happens to Beloit and the whole stadium issue, the bottom line is that they’ve been good to us,” Ryan said.

“Our job is draft and develop players that can help us at the big-league level. And whether we’re here (Pohlman Field) or a new stadium, we want to put a good product on the field each and every night.”

A new stadium for the Snappers will remain on the backburner for now. More economic studies are needed, according to Conerton.

He hopes they’ll be as favorable as the most recent one.

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