Additional seating, other upgrades at Breese Stevens Field would happen sooner under proposal

1 May 2018

The city of Madison could funnel $1.3 million into facility improvements — including bumping up the seating capacity to nearly 5,000 — and historic preservation at Breese Stevens Field under a resolution to be introduced before the City Council Tuesday.

The funding, which would come evenly from general obligation debt and park impact fee funding, would add about 1,300 new seats, upgrade the public address system, improve the locker rooms and preserve the historic structure by preventing water damage, Madison Parks superintendent Eric Knepp said.

The stadium at 917 E. Mifflin St. currently has a capacity of about 3,700 people for sporting events. The improvements were originally scheduled for 2021, but could happen this year.

The project would result in the stadium having about 3,000 bleacher-style seats, along with more than 1,000 individual seats and an area with flexible or group seating with tables for up to 800 people, Knepp said.

The resolution would authorize funds to be spent this year to coincide with a separate $1.2 million project to construct a concession and restroom facility in the stadium, Knepp said.

“This city has had a longtime vision of modernizing the facility” while preserving the historic nature, Knepp said. “Looking at the way the project works out, it makes a lot of sense … to make these improvements now.”

Also to be introduced Tuesday is a 10-year use agreement proposal with Big Top Baseball, the company that currently manages events at Breese Stevens.

Big Top, which also runs the Madison Mallards baseball team, the Independence Day “Shake the Lake” festival and other sports teams, is seeking changes to its current contract with the city, including an increase in the number of concerts at the Near East Side venue, full alcohol sales for public events, later ending times for some events and to allow for a professional minor league soccer team to play at Breese Stevens.

In return, the company is willing to increase its annual rental fee from $30,000 to $100,000.

Knepp said details of the negotiated contract were still being worked out Sunday, but he said he hoped the contract would become publicly available Monday.

Neighborhood residents expressed support for bringing a soccer team to Madison at a meeting in January — Big Top hopes a team could begin playing in 2019 — but there was concern about the proposed growth in concerts and the accompanying noise and parking issues from events.