Jim & Bob's Palatial Baseball Blog

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Baseball Like It Oughtta Be!

Here in beautiful south-central Wisconsin, the local home-town team is the Northwoods League's Madison Mallards. For those of you unfamiliar with the league and the team, the NWL is a summer league for college players to get more playing time (and to get experience with wooden bats, which has led to some 1906-like league slugging averages).

You may remember Ryan Spilborghs from the 2007 World Series. He is the most famous Mallard alumni.

Because these kids want to keep their NCAA eligibility, they don't get paid. And so, in an effort to pander to the "these damned players make too damned much money" crowd, the team's marketing slogan was Baseball Like It Oughtta Be!

Because those kids played just for the love of the game, not because they were trying to get drafted by a big-league team and make too damned much money, don'tcha know.

Anyway, it looks like the Mallards are moving away from Baseball Like It Oughtta Be and into Baseball Like It Rather Depressingly Is in Real Life.

The Mallards play their games at Warner Park, which hosted the legendary Madison Muskies back in the day. Unfortunately, a lot of the park still dated back to the Pleistocene Era...errrrr...mid-eighties. So the Mallards are doing what every baseball team does at some point: demanding a new stadium!

OK, not a new stadium. Just a bunch of renovations of the current yard. However, the plan has run into a few snags.

The latest plans are projected to cost $5.6 million, a mere $1.6 million more than what was originally figured. No one knows where this extra money is going to come from.

And to top things off, the city and all the various commissions involved need to sign off on the project this month in order for it to be completed in time for the 2009 season. Of course, that has annoyed some of the alders and concerned citizens. For some reason they think the public needs to be involved in the discussion of how to spend the public's money.

Now the Mallards are saying that the renovation needs to be done for 2009, because the existing bleachers won't be safe after 2008:

Mallards General Manager Vern Stenman is not so sure that the Mallards can continue if the project is delayed another year.

In 2004, an engineering consultant to the city, which owns the stadium and leases it to the Mallards, determined that the existing bleachers can only continue to be used safely through the 2008 season. The consultant estimated replacing the bleachers would cost $800,000, which went into the city capital budget and is the only amount the city has so far agreed to put directly toward the project. The remaining $1.2 million of the city's share of the original $4 million project was going to be a loan the city took out on behalf of the Mallards.

"I've been working with these bleachers every day for seven years. It's time to replace them," Stenman said today.

Schumacher said he wants the bleachers looked at again by a professional to see if they really must be replaced before the 2009 season starts.

Neither Rhodes-Conway nor Mayor Dave Cieslewicz's spokesman, George Twigg, commented on the need for a new study of the bleachers, but Twigg said "the bleachers are close to the end of their useful life. They do need to be taken care of. All the issues are intertwined -- the schedule, the finances and everything."

Dodgy stadium financing, veiled threats from the team...gosh, it's like I've got a real-live Major Leaegue Baseball team right here in my backyard!

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