The Neverending Story Continues again

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Snappers ponder downtown site


Beloit Snappers officials were among those listening intently
Thursday as author and University of Notre Dame Professor Philip Bess
spoke on the value of urban baseball stadiums during a City Center
seminar.

Bess, author of “City Baseball Magic” and a key advisor
in the “Save Fenway Park” movement a few years ago, said the merits of
an urban stadium — whether in a Major League setting in Boston or
Chicago or a minor-league one in Beloit — can’t be overlooked.


His message obviously struck a chord.


“He was invited here because he says if you are interested in a
city center or urban ballpark, there are issues or principles you need
to consider,” said Jeff Adams, Professor of Economics at Beloit College
and member of Beloit 2020. “He gave us a lot of things to think about
in the context of what makes for a great city. I loved his lecture.”


The
seminar by Bess was particularly relevant since Snappers Chairman of
the Board Dennis Conerton revealed the Snappers are now considering a
downtown site for the new stadium they hope to build to replace outdated
Pohlman Field.


Conerton said the site is available on a 20-acre tract of land on the Ironworks campus alongside the Rock River.

“We
went from having no site and no funding to a site in the Gateway
without funding to two sites without funding,” Conerton said. “At least
we have options to evaluate and people are talking.”

I really do want this to be done and in a positive manner for the Snappers.

Conerton said the possibility of a downtown ballpark fosters a number of new questions, not the least of which is funding.

“Funding
is an element of the process we’re going through,” he said. “Is it
better funding potential at this site, the Gateway site, or does it make
any difference? We also have to look at income potential, sponsorship,
naming rights, all kinds of things.


“We’re on a short time frame. We’ve brought in a consultant to analyze both sites and we’ll get an objective opinion.”


Eight Imperatives
of a Downtown Ballpark from Mr. Bess:

1. Think always of ballpark design in the context of urban design.



2. Think always in terms of mixed-use neighborhood rather than entertainment zone or cultural district.

3. Let site as much as program drive the ballpark design — not exclusively, but more.

4. Treat the ballpark as a civic building.

5. Make cars adapt to the culture and physical form of the neightborhood instead of the neighborhood adapting to the cars.

6. Maximize the use of pre-existing on- and off-street parking, and distrubute rather than concentrate any new required parking.

7. Create development opportunities for a variety of activities in the vicinity of the ballpark, including housing and shopping.

8.
Keep the ballpark footprint smaller and more neighborhood-friendly by
locating non-ballpark specific program functions in buildings located
adjacent to rather than within the ballpark. For example, team offices.

It is mentioned that Professor Bess has worked on Fenway Park preservation.  He also worked on designing a downtown site to replace Milwaukee County Stadium, Riverfront Stadium in Cincinnati, and Old Comiskey Park in Chicago.

I will leave the final word to Jeff Vohs, the GM of the Snappers, who brings up a couple of good points regarding a downtown stadium:

“Our surveys have shown that a large percent of our attendance is
from outside Beloit,” he said. “So is our sponsorship. If the park is
downtown, how does that impact our long-term viability? Would people
drive into Beloit to see a game? How would traffic be handled on a
fireworks night downtown? How about parking? Those are all things we
need to consider.”

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