BELOIT - The Beloit Snappers baseball team could soon have a new owner and a new stadium located in downtown Beloit, according to an announcement made Thursday night.
The Snappers will remain a Class A affiliate of the Oakland Athletics Major League Baseball team under new ownership of Janesville native and UW-Whitewater alum Quint Studer, owner of Studer Entertainment & Retail. The Pensacola, Florida-based company also currently co-owns the Pensacola Blue Wahoos minor league baseball team.
"First of all, I want to commend the Snappers Board of Directors for their diligence and unselfish work for so many years by keeping the Snappers' franchise viable in Beloit. I was not interested in any other minor league team across the country," Studer said in the announcement. "But, because of my deep roots in the Rock County, southern Wisconsin area, Beloit was always an interest to me."
In a statement provided to the Beloit Daily News on Friday, longtime Snappers leader Dennis Conerton stressed the franchise sale is contingent on Studer's successful signing of a 20-year lease with the Riverbend Stadium Authority (RSA).
"That is key to our board's intent on keeping professional baseball in Beloit," Conerton said. "We could have sold the franchise to several interested parties who would have moved it out of the city, but we insisted it needed to remain here."
According to Conerton, the effort is also subject to the approval of the Midwest League, Minor League Baseball and Major League Baseball.
In 2016, Conerton and the Beloit Snappers Board of Directors started pursuing new ownership and facilities for the team. As previously reported by the Beloit Daily News, the board attempted to secure a public funding mechanism for a new stadium during state budget talks earlier this year, but after a fund was vetoed by Gov. Tony Evers the plan was abandoned.
In an interview Thursday night with the Janesville Gazette, Studer called the deal for a new stadium a "make or break time" for Beloit and the franchise if the city wanted to keep its minor league ball club.
"It's so ironic," Studer said. "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 added that if the stadium, with construction scheduled for next spring, isn't finished by Spring of 2021, he said the Snappers could continue playing at Pohlman Field until it could move into a new stadium.
The soon-to-be established stadium authority will lead the stadium project with Hendricks Commercial Properties (HCP) set to be the developer of the stadium that will be designed by Jones Petrie Rafinski. According to an HCP representative, the project will be required to be bid out for construction.
Officials hope the stadium and new owners will usher in a new era for downtown Beloit, with ABC Supply Co. Chair Diane Hendricks providing "the majority share of the financing" in the project, according to the announcement.
"The new stadium will become an iconic meeting place for the local community," Hendricks said. "This project is just another great opportunity to further enhance the downtown area and offer residents and visitors a unique Beloit experience."
Studer said his company looks forward to "working with the Hendricks team, and admire the tremendous investments they have made in the southern Wisconsin area."
The stadium is set to be located at 217 Shirland Ave. in Beloit along the Rock River. The plans call for a total capacity of nearly 5,000 fans, including fixed seats and general admission experience areas. The proposed stadium site consists of seven total acres between the Rock River and Beloit Transfer Facility near the Beloit City Hall building, 100 State St.
No projected cost for the stadium has been released.
The stadium group plans to lead a community capital campaign to engage local support "as a key component for a successful project," according to the announcement.
Aside from being the new Snappers home, the plans include using the new stadium as a community facility focused on providing youth, educational and cultural events during away games and in the baseball offseason.
"We are excited about the possibility of bringing even more visitors to our vibrant downtown with the addition of the new community ballpark," said Beloit City Manager Lori Curtis Luther. "This community amenity could lead to additional economic development and job growth opportunities in our downtown area and beyond."
Luther commended all parties involved in the work over the last decade to see the project move forward.
"Our conversations have underscored the desire for this project to deliver real economic and cultural benefits, including job creation and new civic and recreational opportunities," Luther added.
All plans rely on Beloit City Council approval, and the council will meet at 6:30 p.m. on Monday, Sept. 30 at the Beloit Public Library large conference room, 605 Eclipse Boulevard, to discuss the potential development, according to a meeting notice published Thursday night.
The Snappers have played in Beloit for the last 38 years.
(Additional reporting contributed by Adams Publishing Group reporter Neil Johnson.)