Janesville73.5°

Proposal would return softball to Back of the Yards

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staff, Gazette
September 1, 2012

— The owner of a nearby tavern is creating plans to return softball to the Back of the Yards on the city’s south side.

Bob Kermen owns The Back Bar, 1901 Beloit Ave., and the former softball fields in the northeast corner of Beloit and Kellogg avenues. He envisions five leagues consisting of 10 teams each playing at the fields Monday through Friday, and tournaments on weekends. His plans would see leagues starting next spring.

If Kermen gets his way, spectators will be able to order a beer, too.

The city’s planning commission will hear Kermen’s proposal at its next meeting Tuesday night. The meeting also will serve as a public hearing for residents wishing to comment on the proposal.

On Tuesday morning, Kermen is set to appear before the city’s Alcohol Licensing Advisory Committee to discuss operations at The Back Bar, a live-music venue and bar next to the softball fields. He last appeared before the ALAC in April after two incidents at the bar nearly led to the committee suspending its liquor license.

Kermen apologized to the city council for the problems and the ALAC granted him a second chance. The bar reported a problem-free May, and it appears the two parties now are on favorable terms.

After Kermen offers his update on the bar Tuesday, he will ask the ALAC to amend the bar’s liquor license to include the adjacent Back of the Yards, where he plans to sell tap beer and canned wine during softball games.

“The site plan … clearly shows fencing (around the concession stand selling alcoholic beverages), there will be no carry-on alcohol and no there’s booze allowed on the field,” Kermen said. “We won’t allow excess drinking. It will be very low-key.”

The planning commission on Tuesday night will consider Kerman’s requests to combine two parcels of land, rezone the Back of the Yards from industrial to commercial use and approve a conditional-use permit that allows for private outdoor recreation in a commercially-zoned site.

The Back of the Yards hosted softball leagues from 1969-97 before the late Ken Hendricks sold the property to a trucking company in 1997. The company was planning an expansion that never materialized.

The property then traded hands a few more times before Kermen bought it a year ago.

Kermen said he already has a “very well-thought out” site plan that calls for two diamonds, an open-air pavilion and a 16-by-20-foot concession stand.

Eventually, Kermen wants the Back of the Yards to host two leagues running simultaneously on the two fields by 2014.

The Back of the Yards would be in direct competition with the city, which has its own summer softball league down the road at Dawson Field on Beloit Avenue. The city does not allow alcohol during league play at Dawson, but it does permit alcohol and wine cooler sales during tournaments.

“The bar league is the bar league, and the church league is the church league,” Kermen said. “They each have their own purpose. They’ve co-existed before, and they can co-exist again.”



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