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Baseball in Wausau

Tangled Webs

Baseball America's 1990 Almanac included this note at the end of Curt Rallo's Midwest League writeup:

The Wausau franchise was sold following the 1989 season. There had been speculation that the club would relocate to LaCrosse, Wisconsin, in 1990, but agreement was reached to stay in Wausau.

Despite some gaps in my information, these events are surprisingly well-documented. There are some interesting tangles in the story.


Although my sources have some disagreement, it appears that the RediMed Professional Sports group purchased the Timbers from the local ownership group (called Timbers Baseball) before the 1988 season. The new owners were based in Fort Wayne, and planned to move the Timbers to their town. Their plan was to invest about two million dollars to renovate Carrington Field, which was part of the Memorial Coliseum complex. The city reluctantly agreed to the upgrade--they'd have preferred a downtown stadium--and was prepared to lend the group about two thirds of the necessary money. RediMed was unable to recruit the remaining $750,000; they abandoned the project and sold the team.


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Here's where the Baseball America story begins. RediMed sold the team to a partnership of partnerships operating under the the Wisconsin Baseball Partnership banner--whose components were West Michigan Baseball Development and American Sports Enterprises. This group (apparently) tried to move the team to LaCrosse. They proposed to build a $2.5 million stadium; some of the funding was in place, and the city council had given lukewarm support, but a referendum failed. Money was one of the expressed concerns; the location--interestingly, as things turned out, at a reclaimed landfill--was another.

After another year in Wausau, the team moved to Geneva (Kane County) for the 1991 season--which is likely where American Sports Enterprises wanted to end up all along.


Interesting loose ends:

First, there's the West Michigan Baseball thing. Although Lew Chamberlin and Denny Baxter were part of the original Kane County ownership group, the West Michigan partnership continued to work to build a stadium near Grand Rapids. By early 1993 they had the money in place and announced both that the ballpark would be built and that they'd purchased the Madison franchise. The Whitecaps opened the new park in 1994. Several key staff members joined West Michigan directly from Kane County.

Second, there's the Fort Wayne ballpark. In the end, the city helped Eric Margenau and his partners replace Carrington Field with the Wizards' Castle (Memorial Stadium, properly). Margenau bought the Kenosha Twins in 1991, and moved them to Fort Wayne in 1993. On his way from Wisconsin, he negotiated with Kenosha about upgrading or replacing Simmons Field, and contacted officials in Bloomington (Illinois), and Anderson and Evansville (both Indiana) about moving the team to those towns. Fort Wayne made the best offer.

Third, there's RediMed. Fort Wayne has a business named RediMed; they run medical clinics around the area. RediMed is owned by Jay Frye, who was once the trainer of the (then International Hockey League) Fort Wayne Komets and has often ventured into sports ownership as a side venture to his clinical operations.

Finally, there's LaCrosse. They don't seem to want a baseball team. Until the Saints left, they hosted a big-league football camp every summer, and were happy.


Sources

  • Baseball America's 1990 Almanac.
  • Several late-1980s team yearbooks; various MWL teams.
  • 1993 Wizards Yearbook.
  • 1994 Whitecaps Yearbook.
    • Unfortunately, there's nothing about these events in the inaugural Kane County yearbook.
  • Nate Trela of the Fort Wayne News-Sentinel.
  • Arthur T. Johnson's Minor League Baseball and Local Economic Development (University of Illinois Press, 1995) begins with a case study on Fort Wayne's 1989 decision not to build a ballpark.
  • And, most surprisingly, I found an article about the LaCrosse negotiations on the website of the Minneapolis Federal Reserve Bank.

This page originated as the December 17, 2000, Midwest League Tidbit on the Midwest League Mailing List. I signed it "Snowbound (again) in rural Michgan...."




The Midwest League plays Single-A, professional baseball in America's agricultural and industrial heartland. 16 teams play a 140 game schedule which begins in early April and ends Labor Day weekend.

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