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OPINION - Athletic Park

by Chris Conley

NEWS BLOG (WSAU)  Here’s my observation about Wisconsin Woodchucks games:  Most games start out with a large, family-friendly crowd. As the game goes on, the crowd grows smaller. By the time the game ends, only half of the original crowd is still there.

Some of this is the ‘kid’ factor. Woodchucks tickets are cheap. People bring their kids. They go home when the kids become antsy. Others go to the ballpark for the social experience. They’re part of car-dealer night or whatever the evening’s promotion is. They party in the picnic area, and when they’ve had their fill of beer and brats, they’re done for the night.

The Woodchuck’s new owner, Mark McDonald, has a different theory. He says Athletic Park isn’t a comfortable place to watch a ballgame. His $2.7-million renovation plan focuses on people comforts. Make the ballpark nicer – more people will come and stay.

There’s a different between a quaint, throw-back ballpark and a fan-friendly ballpark. Athletic Park is the former, but not the latter.

Major League Baseball knows this – Wrigley Field is a classic, old ballpark. And that’s easy for us to say when we watch those games on TV. The truth is Wrigley is old, with poor concessions and fan amenities. Players hate it – the locker rooms and clubhouses are the worst in baseball, rivaled only by the other ‘classic’ Fenway Park in Boston.

McDonald may be right. He’s willing to risk his own money to find out. The architectural drawings of the ‘new’ Athletic Park look great, and the city will gain a small park across the street. There’s nothing not to like about this plan. Let’s hope it brings the desired results.

Chris Conley
4.17.13