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Sports complex among ideas for Lambeau surplus

Friday, Dec 18, 2015

A $10 million outdoor sports complex, $4 million amphitheater, community center for underprivileged families and street repairs were just a few of the proposals from Green Bay residents for using excess stadium tax money.

About 60 people attended a public forum Thursday, hosted by Mayor Jim Schmitt and City Council president Tom De Wane, on how to use the estimated $5.5 million windfall.

The people presented 16 different ideas on how to use the money for economic development, ranging from downtown improvements to neighborhood revitalization.

Legislation signed by Gov. Scott Walker last month returns about $17 million in surplus revenue from the terminated 0.5 percent Lambeau Field sales tax imposed in Brown County. The money can only be used for property tax relief, reducing debt or economic development.

No one at Thursday’s forum suggested using the money for tax relief or reducing debt.

The most expensive request came from Big Top Baseball, which owns the Green Bay Bullfrogs. The events company asked for $4 million towards a new $10 million outdoor events center at the Corner of Mason Street and South Broadway. The area along the Fox River is currently vacant green space.

The field would not only host Bullfrogs games but serve as the home of a minor league soccer team, Connor Caloia of Big Top Baseball said.

It would also be used as a 3,000-person concert venue and space for community festivals, he said.

“We think this facility can be a catalyst for economic development on Broadway on the south side,” he said.

The Green Bay Botanical Gardens requested the city contribute an unspecified amount of the surplus funds to its $4 million expansion project. The addition would include a 1,500-seat amphitheater, classrooms and a catering kitchen for events, said Executive Director Susan Garot.

“We’ve proven previous investments in the garden have been well managed and prudently spent,” she said.

Others said the city has spent enough money on downtown development and should instead focus on neighborhood or infrastructure projects.

Bronson Smith, of Smith Street, said he believes the city has focused too much on the downtown development “while the rest of the city has been mostly forgotten.”

Smith said he’d like see as much as $500,000 spent on a large pavilion in Farlin Park for residents to hold weddings and other private events.

Resident Denise Farmer suggested a free community center for underprivileged families.

“What I’m looking for is a place that is free so that people like my daughter can go for an environment that is safe and where they can play,” she said.

Mary Doruff of Kellogg Street suggested the city should focus on fixing existing infrastructure rather than new amenities. She said the condition of the city’s streets “is pathetic.”

“Our streets attest to the lack of concern for the taxpayers in neighborhoods,” she said.

Other suggestions included using the money to complete the East River Trail, implement a citywide health initiative, invest in the Children’s Museum of Green Bay and start an endowment fund that could provide grant money for future economic development projects.

Schmitt and De Wane said they plan to host another public forum to solicit more suggestions in January.

The proposals will then be vetted by the City Council, which will approve a final spending plan.

 

greenbaypressgazette.com

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