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New Beloit stadium, owner for Snappers announced

BELOIT

After years of uncertainty over whether Beloit will continue to have a minor league baseball team, a plan has emerged for a long-awaited and long-rumored new stadium.

The Snappers will stay put in Beloit under new ownership in a new, 5,000-seat stadium that would break ground next year off Shirland Avenue, near the Wisconsin-Illinois state line, according to an announcement late Thursday afternoon.

Under the deal, Janesville native and Pensacola, Florida, resident Quint Studer would be the new owner of the Snappers.

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Studer would lease the stadium under a guaranteed, 20-year deal that’s part of a joint agreement between the Snappers, Studer Entertainment and Retail and the newly-formed Riverbend Stadium Authority, according to a news release.

Studer, a local philanthropist and former healthcare consultant, would operate the Snappers franchise.

It’s not clear what it would cost to bankroll a new stadium, but the Riverbend Stadium Authority’s plan, according to the release, is being backed largely through financing by Beloit billionaire and business mogul Diane Hendricks, according to the news release.

The stadium would continue to host the Snappers as a Class A Minor League Baseball affiliate of the Oakland Athletics. It could break ground in spring 2020 and be ready for play by April 2021, sources familiar with the project told The Gazette.

Studer pumped several million dollars into renovating retail storefronts on North Main Street in downtown Janesville in 2016. He co-owns and operates the Blue Wahoos, a Minor League Baseball team that plays at a stadium Studer built in Pensacola.

The Riverbend Stadium Authority would design the stadium to sit on a 7-acre site between the Rock River and the Beloit Transit facility west of Beloit City Hall.

On Thursday, the stadium authority hired Indiana design firm Jones Petrie Rafinski to draw up initial designs for the new stadium, which would replace Pohlman Field, an aging stadium that local officials have said Minor League Baseball has long considered inadequate.

Earlier this year, Midwest League President Dick Nussbaum told the Beloit Daily News that progress had been made on talks for a new Beloit stadium but there was a continued sense of urgency around the league that the undersized, 38-year-old Pohlman Field is no longer an acceptable facility for professional baseball.

The Snappers franchise has an agreement through the Professional Baseball Agreement to continue to play at Pohlman through the 2020 season, but the clock has been ticking on a plan for a new stadium.

Snappers officials had said earlier this year they’d neared the finish line on financing to build a downtown stadium. The city-owned Pohlman, which holds 3,500 spectators but hasn’t reached capacity in a number of years, is located near Interstate 90/30.

In an interview Thursday night, Studer called the deal for a new stadium a “make or break time” for Beloit and the (Snappers) franchise if the city wanted to keep its minor league ball club.

“It’s so ironic. Once you lose a team because a city won’t build a stadium, then they lose a team and they end up scrambling to try to build a stadium. But then there’s no team available.”

Studer has been in talks for about three years after the head of Minor League Baseball called to gauge Studer’s interest in the Snappers. Studer said conversations really began to heat up between him, Hendricks and the Snappers last year.

Studer said Hendricks’s interest in building a stadium in downtown Beloit was what sealed his interest in taking on a second minor league franchise. He called Hendricks “iconic” in her work over the last decade bankrolling revitalization in Beloit’s downtown.

“I really have just great admiration for Diane Hendricks. I think that when Diane Hendricks does something, she does it right. And if you want to partner with somebody or lease from somebody, you want a landlord that does things right,” Studer said.

No current schematic drawings were available for the stadium, but the Riverbend Stadium Authority and backers for the project plan to make more details public at a Beloit City Council meeting Monday night. Studer said a stadium like the one being planned can cost upward of “$30 to $35 million” to build.

Minor League Baseball, Major League Baseball and the Midwest League all must sign off on the stadium plan to ensure it meets standards for professional baseball, and the city council must approve a transfer of lease from Pohlman Field to the new stadium.

Studer said if a new stadium isn’t completed by spring 2021, he believes the Snappers could continue playing at Pohlman until it could move into the new park.

The Riverbend Stadium Authority said in a statement that it “plans to lead a successful capital campaign to engage local support as a key component for a successful project,” which the group refers to as a “community ballpark” that would host other events in the off season.

Studer believes the 7-acre spot on the south end of the downtown is a prime location. He said he likes the idea of a stadium being along the Rock River and within walking distance from downtown.

He said the Pensacola baseball stadium he operates holds about 5,000 people, but only has about 300 parking spots for spectators. He said he believes that a downtown location will allow people to park downtown, use restaurants, shop and then walk to the game.

He imagines an atmosphere before games like in Wrigleyville in Chicago on a smaller scale.

Lori Luther, Beloit’s city manager, said after a decade of work trying to galvanize a new Snappers stadium, she and the city are pleased with the new plan announced Thursday. She said a downtown stadium would be a “community amenity that could lead to additional economic development and job growth ... in our downtown and beyond.”


Washington
AP
Whistleblower accuses White House of Ukraine call cover-up

WASHINGTON

White House officials took extraordinary steps to “lock down” information about President Donald Trump’s summertime phone call with the president of Ukraine, even moving the transcript to a secret computer system, a whistleblower alleges in a politically explosive complaint that accuses the administration of a wide-ranging cover-up.

The whistleblower, in a 9-page document released Thursday, provides substantial new details about the circumstances of the phone call in which Trump repeatedly spoke of how much the U.S. had aided Ukraine and encouraged new President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to help investigate political rival Joe Biden and his son.

Accusations of efforts to pressure the leader of a foreign nation to dig for dirt on a potential 2020 Trump rival are now at the heart of a House impeachment inquiry against the president. The whistleblower’s official complaint alleges a concerted White House effort to suppress the transcript of the call, and describes a shadow campaign of foreign policy efforts by the president’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani that unnerved some senior administration officials who felt he was circumventing normal channels.

“In the days following the phone call, I learned from multiple U.S. officials that senior White House officials had intervened to ‘lock down’ all the records of the phone call, especially the official word-for-word transcript of the call that was produced as is customary by the White House situation room,” the complaint says.

The previously secret document, with its detail and clear narrative, is likely to accelerate the impeachment process and put more pressure on Trump to rebut its core contentions and on his fellow Republicans to defend him or not. It also provides a road map for Democrats to seek corroborating witnesses and evidence, which will complicate the president’s efforts to characterize the findings as those of a lone partisan out to undermine him.

In response, Trump threatened “the person” who he said gave information to the whistleblower as he spoke at a private event in New York with staff from the U.S. mission to the United Nations.

“Who’s the person who gave the whistleblower the information? Because that’s close to a spy,” Trump said in audio posted by The Los Angeles Times. “You know what we used to do in the old days when we were smart? Right? The spies and treason, we used to handle it a little differently than we do now.”

On his Twitter account, Trump insisted the entire controversy is political: “The Democrats are trying to destroy the Republican Party and all that it stands for. Stick together, play their game and fight hard Republicans. Our country is at stake.” His tweet was in all capital letters.

Under pressure from House Democrats, the White House a day earlier released a rough transcript of the phone call between Trump and the Ukrainian president. In it, Trump prodded Zelenskiy to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden, a potential 2020 election foe, and Biden’s son Hunter, who was on the board of a Ukrainian gas company.

But the complaint released Thursday offered a broader picture of what was happening in the White House and the administration at the time. In the aftermath of the call, according to the whistleblower, White House lawyers were concerned “they had witnessed the president abuse his office for personal gain,” the complaint says.

The complaint has revived questions about the activities of Giuliani, who it says alarmed government officials by circumventing “national security decision making processes.” Giuliani, a Trump loyalist who represented the president in special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation, repeatedly communicated with advisers of Ukraine’s president in the days after the phone call.

The House intelligence committee released a redacted version of the whistleblower complaint Thursday ahead of testimony from Joseph Maguire, the acting director of national intelligence. Maguire acknowledged that the complaint alleged serious wrongdoing by the president but said it was not his role to judge whether the allegations were credible or not.

Maguire said he was unfamiliar with any other whistleblower complaint in American history that “touched on such complicated and sensitive issues.” He praised the whistleblower as having acted honorably, said he recognized the complaint as immediately sensitive and important and insisted the White House did not direct him to withhold it from Congress.

“I believe that everything in this matter here is totally unprecedented,” he said.

In the complaint, the anonymous whistleblower acknowledged not being present for Trump’s Ukraine call, but said multiple White House officials shared consistent details about it.

Adding another layer of intrigue, those officials told the whistleblower that “this was ‘not the first time’ under this administration that a presidential transcript was placed into this codeword-level system solely for the purpose of protecting politically sensitive—rather than national security sensitive—information,” the complaint said.

In this case, the complaint said, the officials told the whistleblower they were “directed” by White House lawyers to remove the electronic transcript from the computer system in which such transcripts are typically stored for coordination, finalization and distribution to Cabinet-level officials.

“This set of actions underscored to me that White House officials understood the gravity of what had transpired in the call,” the official complaint said.

“If this was all so innocent,” Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer of New York said in reaction, “why did so many officials in the White House, in the Justice Department and elsewhere make such large efforts to prevent it from being made public?”

The complaint also says multiple U.S. officials reported that Giuliani traveled to Madrid one week after the call to meet with one of Zelenskiy’s advisers, and that the meeting was characterized as a follow-up to the telephone conversation between the two leaders

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who endorsed an impeachment investigation in light of the Ukraine revelations, said the content of the complaint “lifts this into whole new terrain.”

The president, she said, “betrayed his oath of office, our national security and the integrity” of America’s elections.

Rep. Adam Schiff, the chairman of the House intelligence committee, said the whistleblower “has given us a road map” for the impeachment investigation.

In the Senate, which would hold a trial if the House voted to impeach Trump, there was an undercurrent of concern among Republicans.

Many Republicans declined comment about the complaint, saying at midday they had not read the whistleblower report. But a few mounted defenses of the president and attacked the whistleblower’s credibility.

Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., who made several trips to meet with the Ukrainian president including the inauguration mentioned in the report, brushed off critics “impugning all kinds of nefarious motives here.”

“This has been blown way out of proportion,” Johnson said.


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Rest stop on the trip south: Monarchs fill trees at Janesville home

JANESVILLE

Dave Homan was driving his power lawnmower under the black walnut trees in his yard on Hanover Road earlier this week when the roll bar hit a branch.

Suddenly, Homan was surrounded by butterflies.

He looked up. His trees were full of monarchs.

A few of those butterflies apparently needed a rest on their long trip south and decided that Homan’s trees looked like good cover. A handful more made the same decision.

And then a handful more, and more, and more.

Most people know that monarchs are one of only a few butterfly species that migrate south for the winter.

Anthony Wahl 

Migrating monarchs rest in clusters on the branches of black walnut trees behind Dave Homan’s house on Hanover Road in Janesville on Wednesday. Homan first noticed the butterflies Monday when he jostled low-lying branches, disturbing the butterflies resting there and making them flutter all around him.

As the weather cools across the northern part of the United States, monarchs make their way down to Mexico and parts of Southern California, said Tom Klubertanz, a professor of biological science at UW-Whitewater at Rock County.

They spend the winter there before returning north in spring, Klubertanz said.

It’s a journey of up to 2,000 miles, and they need to rest.

Klubertanz suspects that the monarchs are coming from miles around, responding to chemical signals the other butterflies are giving out. Monarchs might gather together on cool nights for protection against predators or for warmth.

In general, however, birds don’t bother them, Klubertanz said.

Monarch caterpillars dine exclusively on milkweed. The plant has a toxin that remains in the monarchs’ systems, making them unpalatable to most birds.

Anthony Wahl 

Monarch butterflies can be seen on the branches of black walnut trees behind Dave Homan’s house on Hanover Road in Janesville on Wednesday. Homan first noticed the butterflies while he was mowing his lawn Monday. Experts say the colorful insects won’t stay long.

Scientists think monarchs use a variety of clues to tell them when it’s time to head south, said Kerry Katovich, an associate professor of biology at UW-Whitewater.

“Conditions are telling them that they need to go in a southwest direction,” he said.

It could be the position of the sun, lower nighttime temperatures or the condition of the plants they depend on for nectar, according to the Monarch Joint Venture, a St. Paul, Minnesota-based conservation group.

Monarchs don’t travel together per se, but they are flying along the same route, and that accounts for the collective roosting behavior.

“They tend to stick around for a day or two,” Klubertanz said. “They’re not going to stay in one spot for long.”

Anthony Wahl 

A monarch butterfly comes in for a landing on a black walnut tree behind Dave Homan’s house on Hanover Road in Janesville. The butterflies are resting on their trip south.


Obituaries and death notices for Sept. 27, 2019

Jerry E. Haeft

Janice M. Hanson

Delores (Dee) Hinzpeter

Candace L. Krohn

Eva Jean Robinson

Joanna F. Sullivan-Blair

Merle D. Schinke

Tyffani Turner

Stacey Lee Updike