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The Next Era – Reflection of a commitment

Third Base Ventures announces multi-million stadium remodel project

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October 10, 2022

APPLETON – Neuroscience Group Field at Fox Cities Stadium in Appleton is about to get a major facelift.

Third Base Ventures, the owners of the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers – the Midwest League affiliate of the Milwaukee Brewers – announced a multi-million-dollar renovation project Sept. 29, which is expected to be completed by the start of the 2023 season.

Rob Zerjav, president, CEO and managing partner of Third Base Ventures/Wisconsin Timber Rattlers, said the push behind the renovation project is multifaceted.

“Over the last few years, we’ve seen the player amenities increase off the field, from transportation to meals to housing to pay,” he said. “As part of the agreement with Major League Baseball, we also have to improve the experience on the field and at the ballpark.”

Zerjav said new standards were put forth for Minor League Baseball facilities by the player development license, which was granted to the ownership team in 2020.

“There’s a three-year period now where we need to meet all of these standards starting in 2023,” he said. “There’s a point schedule. You have to be at 30 points or below by 2023, 20 points or below by 2024 and 10 points or below by 2025 and moving forward. Our hope with this renovation is we will get to that 2025 level, under 10 points by the start of the 2023 season.”

In addition to meeting the new standards, Zerjav said the renovations also aim to improve both player and fan experiences – each aimed at setting the Timber Rattlers on top for Minor League teams for overall experience.
Player upgrades
Zerjav said one of the most noticeable changes in terms of player upgrades, is the switching of the home and visitor clubhouses.

“Our current clubhouse meets all the standards Major Baseball has set,” he said. “Our visiting clubhouse meets virtually none of the standards Major League Baseball has set.”

Zerjav said moving the visiting team to the Timber Rattlers’ current clubhouse and building a new home team clubhouse was the best plan.

“We’re probably giving the visiting team the best clubhouse in the entire Midwest League,” he said. “Our home clubhouse is going to give us the best clubhouse in Minor League Baseball.”

With the clubhouses switching, that means a switch in dugouts as well.

“Our home team will now be on the first base side and in the first base dugout,” Zerjav said. “That’ll be a big change for our fans. We like the way it synergizes with the experience the Brewers have at American Family Field.”

The new home clubhouse will be twice the size of the existing clubhouse and will feature a new circular locker room, two indoor batting cages, two player-focused areas for nutrition and relaxation, expanded offices for coaches and a dedicated female locker room, an expanded training area and a large weight room that is connected to an outdoor player agility field.

“The new player locker room will be its own space,” Zerjav said. “Currently, you have to walk through the locker room to get to all the different areas, whether it’s the training room, the weight room, batting cage or coaches’ offices – it becomes a high traffic area. You want to create a space where it’s for the players, and it’s their own dedicated space. This new locker was going to accomplish that.”

He said the team worked hand-in-hand with the Brewers throughout the process to make sure they were meeting all their needs.

“I’m working with our coaching staff and our players – we wanted to get all the details of what the players like,” Zerjav said. “Talking to the coaching staff, what do they like?”
Take me out to a ‘360-degree’ field
In addition to the necessary player upgrades, Zerjav said the renovation also includes several amenities for fans.

“It’s going to start with a wider course around the ballpark,” he said. “Right now, we have handicapped seating on our course, which we are going to be pushing out into the grandstands a bit and new handicapped seating will have a countertop for everybody that uses those seats. Our current seating has nine handicapped seats in each one of our sections. Four of those are wheelchair accessible. The new section will now have 10. So, we’re going from 55 current wheelchair accessible seats, and we’ll be doubling that to more than 113 wheelchair accessible seats.”

?When renovations are complete, fans will be able to walk around the entire field, as the existing boardwalk will be connected to a new walkway and seating area above left field. Rendering courtesy of Pendulum Studio/Wisconsin Timber Rattlers

A handful of bleacher seats will be removed from behind home plate to make room for the new Home Plate Club.

“We will be taking out three sections of bleacher seating (behind home plate) and adding a space for individuals and groups of between 60-80 people in that new section,” Zerjav said.

A new seating area – complete with three covered, open-air suites, as well as additional ticketed and general admission seating – will be added above the left-field wall.

“We’ll have three outdoor suites that will each hold 20 people,” Zerjav said. “They will also have removable walls. If you have a group of 40 or 60, you’ll be able to use this space. It will create a new experience for fans with different viewing angles, especially for fans who want to go around the entire ballpark.”

He said the plan also adds an additional bar space for fans to congregate at in centerfield.

Zerjav said with seating being removed in some areas of the stadium and added in others, capacity will remain relatively the same.

He also noted that Third Base Ventures does expect to put forth a small ticket price increase for 2023, as part of the long-range plan to raise ticket prices every few years.

“That wasn’t based on a construction renovation – it’s based on our long-range forecasts of every three to four years raising ticket prices,” Zerjav said. “So, our plan is still to keep prices in line below Minor League averages. We are cognizant of the price to make sure we continue to keep it as affordable family entertainment.”
Continued commitment
Majority Owner Craig Dickman said the renovations are a testament to Third Base Ventures’ commitment to keeping baseball in the Fox Valley.

“Appleton’s had a great heritage for baseball throughout the years, and we thought it was important it continues to be part of our community,” he said. “We made a commitment to the fans to continue to create one of the best fan experiences and engage in family-friendly entertainment.”

Dickman said the renovations will afford owners the ability to shine across not only Minor League Baseball but create some unique experiences with its relationship with Major League Baseball.

“I think, our desire to not only create an exceptional experience here in Appleton, but when fans for other teams come and experience it here and players from other teams come here, they think ‘You know what? Right here in Appleton, (they’re) doing it right,’” he said.

The three-story slide at Neuroscience Group Field at Fox Cities Stadium – which pays homage to the fixture of the Timber Rattlers’ parent club, The Milwaukee Brewers – will be available for all fans to use during the game. Rendering courtesy of Pendulum Studio/Wisconsin Timber Rattlers

Appleton-based Boldt Construction was chosen as the contractor for the project with the design provided by Pendulum Studio.

Zerjav said Boldt built the stadium in 1995, and both Boldt and Pendulum worked together on the stadium remodel after the 2012 season.

Construction has already begun, and Zerjav said renovations are expected to be completed by opening day 2023.
“We started immediately after the season ended,” he said. “The target date is April 1 of 2023.”

Zerjav said the project will be entirely privately funded.

“We’re proud to be able to do that on our own,” he said. “It’s going to be in that $10-plus million range.”

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