Three words explain our eagerness to bring to fruition plans to build a new stadium for the Beloit Snappers: no public financing.
Neither the city of Beloit nor Rock County would issue debt to help pay for constructing a stadium for the minor league baseball team, according to the plan’s backers.
To confirm, we asked Beloit City Manager Lori Luther and County Administrator Josh Smith whether their respective governments have been approached about funding the proposed stadium.
Smith said, “No one has approached me, and to my knowledge, no one has approached other county officials about financing the proposed stadium.”
Luther said, “The city has not been asked to provide any direct funding for the project.”
The stadium plan involves building on city property near downtown Beloit along the riverfront, and perhaps the city would make an indirect contribution by selling or leasing the site. We don’t know yet. But how the city handles the property’s transfer is a small concern compared to the prospect of having the city or county issue millions of dollars of debt to bankroll the private venture.
Indeed, any squabbles over the stadium’s location—whether related to environmental impacts, architecture or parking—are likely to become background noise within this project’s cheering section. The plan creates a clear path to keep the Snappers in Beloit under the new ownership of Quint Studer, whose experience includes owning a minor league baseball team in Pensacola, Florida. The confidence he and other backers exuded last week made the project seem like a fait accompli, though it still requires approvals from both local governments and baseball organizations.
Stadium backers want to spend an estimated $34.2 million for a 5,000-seat stadium. Go for it, we say. Because this project is being privately funded, its backers have a huge incentive to get it right.
Not that we would absolutely object to some public financing had it been requested, but such schemes immediately raise red flags among taxpayers and are almost always controversial. The plan to have Beloit billionaire Diane Hendricks finance the majority of the stadium’s construction will help neutralize the potential opposition.
Taxpayers can relax to some degree, though city officials should still do their due diligence to ensure the Snappers’ long-term viability. A failed venture could land the stadium in the city’s lap someday, turning it into a taxpayer liability, though we’re hopeful Studer, Hendricks and Co. know what they’re doing. That both Studer and Hendricks have deep local connections (Studer lived and worked in Janesville for many years, while Hendricks co-founded Beloit-based ABC Supply) testifies to their commitment to their proposal.
This project could become a model for other cities, which increasingly rely on public financing to construct stadiums and arenas, to follow. In fact, it’s rare nowadays for any developer to break ground on a large-scale project without obtaining some type of public assistance, typically involving tax increment financing.
Hendricks and Studer have set a high bar in their willingness to take responsibility for the Snappers’ future, giving Rock County residents a big reason to root for the home team.