|A recent study recommended this general plan for a new sports complex serving the Oshkosh community.|
By Joseph Schulz
Local community leaders are in the preliminary stages of planning a multiuse outdoor sports complex to address needs illustrated in a joint study between the Oshkosh Convention and Visitors Bureau and Rettler Corp.
According to the Oshkosh Sports Facilities Feasibility Study, the city’s current facilities are functional but need improvements to lighting, concessions, restrooms and bleachers.
“Although functioning as facilities for scheduled games, the condition and standalone amenities at each field are below average or not present,” the study said. “The capacity to run tournaments is impossible or very limited due to lack of multifield facilities.”
The study rated all the sports fields in Oshkosh, giving football and soccer fields an average rating of 2.13 and giving baseball and softball fields an average rating of 1.97.
“According to the assessment, a score of two is defined as ‘Below Average Condition: field is playable but in need of significant upgrading’ and a score of one indicates the need for complete renovation or replacement,” the study said.
The study recommended building a multi-use outdoor sports complex as a solution to the problems addressed.
“Creating a year-round athletic hub in the city of Oshkosh will allow the city to host large sports events, making Oshkosh a premier destination for sports and leisure groups all over the area and benefiting local business,” the study said.
According to city officials, the biggest obstacles for the project moving forward are funding and management of the facility.
CVB Executive Director Amy Albright said the project had been discussed before, but it died because of a lack of funds.
“It’s been talked about, but it’s never gone to that next step,” Albright said. “If a fairy godmother came down and said, ‘Here’s a bunch of money,’ I think you would see this happen tomorrow.”
City Parks Director Ray Maurer said sports complexes are usually funded by private donations, corporate sponsorships and tax dollars if a school district is involved.
“As far as funding goes, that’s the biggest challenge because we’re looking at multi-millions of dollars for something that would suffice for us,” Maurer said. “It’s going to be a lot of private side donations and sponsorships.”
Maurer said the city wouldn’t manage the potential sports complex due to a lack of resources.
“We don’t have a lot of extra staff support; we don’t have a lot of extra funding to go into a lot of our facilities,” Maurer said. “Between us [the parks department], the school district and the county, we’ve been trying to do a better job right now of maintaining our existing facilities.”
Albright said the project is being worked on by the CVB, the Greater Oshkosh Economic Development Corp., the Oshkosh Area School District, the city and representatives from youth groups.
“We had a group I think about a year ago already,” Albright said. “We pulled a group together where we had a representative from literally every club. It was just too big a group, you literally couldn’t talk through anything.”
Despite obstacles in funding and management, Greater Oshkosh Economic Development Corp. President Jason White said a sports complex would persuade more families to move to Oshkosh.
“One component of a complete community is athletics. Athletics are a big economic driver, certainly for the families that are here that play sports,” White said. “In order to keep and retain families here, you have to have offerings in all of those different sports. You have to have venues that will allow for practice time, games, teams to form and games to be played for all seasons of the year.”
White said communities similar in size and smaller than Oshkosh have sports complexes that boost tourism and their economies.
“I know we go to places all over the state where communities have 5,000 to 10,000 people that can accommodate tournaments every weekend in the summer, and we can’t do that in Oshkosh,” White said.
Maurer said a sports complex would reduce the burden on the Parks Department in terms of scheduling teams.
“We schedule youth baseball and youth softball through our department,” Maurer said. “When I started here, we had four or five different organizations that would send us requests to use our facilities. We’re up to nearly 20 right now.”
White said there isn’t a potential site for the complex at this time because the project is in such early stages.
“The discussion of particular sites which may or may not be considered in the future would be too speculative to mention at this point in time and could jeopardize future negotiations if that comes to be,” White said. “Right now, anything is on the table, and there is no property in or out nor even a leading candidate.”
White said it’s too preliminary to know if the proposed complex would replace Titan Stadium for high school football games.
“Other cities the same size or larger, that I’ve been in, it’s uncommon to have three high schools and a major university share one field,” White said.
If local high school teams left Titan Stadium, part of the existing Oshkosh Sports Complex on Josslyn Street, the potential revenue loss for UW Oshkosh would be $124,257 according to UWO Director of Communications Mandy Potts.
School Superintendent Vickie Cartwright said it’s too early to know if the complex would replace Titan Stadium and if built the complex would give the community new opportunities.
“Youth would have the opportunity to practice and play on state-of-the-art fields while the community would have the chance to host tournaments and draw people into Oshkosh,” Cartwright said. “This has the potential to increase local business revenue, showcase the many parks, activities, and events that Oshkosh offers, and increase structured activities for our youths.”