With a proposal to spend $448 million over 20 years on American Family Field’s improvements pending before the Wisconsin Legislature, the public agency that owns the Milwaukee Brewers ballpark lately has been getting more attention.
The Southeast Wisconsin Professional Baseball Park District was created in 1995 by the Legislature and then-Gov. Tommy Thompson as part of the state funding plan for the ballpark, initially known as Miller Park.
The district largely owns the stadium (with the baseball club owning a minority share) and leases it to the Brewers. That lease, which runs through 2030, requires the district to pay for most major capital improvements.
Here’s a rundown on how the stadium district operates − and why two people from its 13-member board of directors have recently quit.
What is the stadium district?
The Southeast Wisconsin Professional Baseball Park District is a local unit of government that is separate and independent from the State of Wisconsin.
The state legislation that created the stadium district gave it authority to oversee financing, designing, constructing, operating and maintaining American Family Field.
The district is managed by a board whose members represent Milwaukee, Waukesha, Ozaukee, Washington and Racine counties − the area where a 0.1% sales tax raised funds to build the stadium.
How is the district funded?
The district’s annual revenue includes rent paid by the Brewers. In 2023, that will be just more than $1.2 million.
The district’s expenses are budgeted at $3.79 million in 2023. That includes $2.2 million in maintenance, repair and improvement expenses. A large share is supported by a separate fund that draws from cash raised by the five-county sales tax before it expired in 2020.
Other expenses cover the the salaries of Executive Director Pat Goss and his administrative staff, various contracted services and the ballpark’s insurance premium − which lately has been rising.
Does the district board vote on renovations?
The district board and its committees meet several times annually to vote on various matters − including decisions on paying for stadium improvements.
On May 25, the board’s Finance and Operations committees voted to spend $6.45 million to replace the ballpark’s main scoreboard. That will include a much larger video display board.
On June 9, those committees voted to spend $4.6 million to upgrade the stadium’s video production equipment, video cameras and other broadcast equipment.
Why did two board members resign?
Neither Mark McCune, board vice president who served 15 years, nor Karen Makoutz, Finance Committee vice chair who served since 1995, commented publicly on their resignations.
Both resignations occurred just after the recent votes approving the new scoreboard and broadcast equipment. McCune was the only “no” vote on the former and Makoutz was one of two opponents on the latter project.
Tim Sheehy, board president, said both McCune, a Washington County representative, and Makoutz, an Ozaukee County representative, served the board well.
Who else serves on the board?
Sheehy, who’s Milwaukee Metropolitan Association of Commerce president, was appointed to the board in 2021 by Gov. Tony Evers.
Evers’ five other appointees are Frank Busalacchi, of Milwaukee County; Deb Dassow, of Ozaukee County; Troy Dennhof, of Racine County; Tony Berndt, of Washington County, and John Zapfel, of Waukesha County.
Other directors are Jason Rae and Danielle Bergner, appointed by Milwaukee County; Doug Stansil, appointed by Racine County; Terry Jannsen, appointed by Waukesha County, and Dominic Ortiz, appointed by the City of Milwaukee. The two board seats filled by Washington County and Ozaukee County appointments remain vacant.